17th century Rubens, estimated at $25-to-35 million, to lead Sotheby’s Masters series

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Art of centuries past is on display at Sotheby’s New York, ahead of its upcoming 2023 Masters Week sales.

One of the highlights is “Salome Presented with the Head of St. John the Baptist”, Peter Paul Rubens’s 1609 painting that is estimated to sell for $25-to-$35 million when it hits the auction block on January 26.

“Very often when you think of Rubens, you think of these incredibly elegant, courtly pictures, which he is very famous for,” said Sotheby’s director of old masters’ paintings, Christopher Apostle. “This, however, is an early work when he just comes back from Italy after a number of years and paints in his native Antwerp and becomes really an overnight sensation back home. It’s one of a group of pictures with kind of intense subject matter.”

In the painting, Rubens depicts the moment just after King Herod’s beheading of Saint John the Baptist.

Another highlight is a newly rediscovered portrait by Bronzino, dating to circa 1527. 

The painting was stolen by the Nazis around 1940-41 from a lady called Ilsea Hesselberger, Lucian Simmons, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman in New York and Head of Restitution Department, explained. 

“She was executed in a concentration camp. And this picture went missing. It should have been returned to her family, but instead ended up hanging in a German office building from 1930- no from 1947, right up until 2021. And then it was recovered by the family. And the proceeds of sale can go to Selfhelp, which is a charity in New York to support Holocaust victims.”

Additional items in the collection include works by Titian, Roccoco artist Giandomenic Tiepolo, and Anthony Van Dyck, among others.

Sotheby’s estimates that its Masters Week sales will realize in excess of $100 million. (Reuters)