A long lost painting by the 17th Century Dutch painter Frans Post, bought for a mere $ 10,000 in a provincial sale in France stole the show at Sotheby's on January 30th in New York.
Sotheby's offered a recently discovered painting by Frans Post (1612-1680) described as the most important previously unknown work by the artist to resurface on the market in the past 70 years. It fetched a record US $ 4,512,500 inclusive of costs, a price which had the taste of a sweet revenge for the French art dealer who had bought it for US $ 10,000 in an auction in an eastern French town, according to well-informed French market sources.
A few years ago, the said Paris dealer had met disaster with a 17th Century painting which he claimed was a work by Diego Velazquez that he had paid some US $ 4 million in a sale at Drouot on June 1990, those sources added.
That day, the canvas showing the Immaculate Conception was presented as a work by a painter from the circle of Velazquez and bidding started at $ 30,000 before reaching a stunning
US $ 4 million price. After cleaning and some painstaking research, this painting was offered for sale in London on July 6th 1994 as a rediscovered Velazquez by Sotheby's and estimated US $ 10 million dollars, but it found no buyer after a majority of experts had rejected its authorship a few days before the sale.
This time, he surely found luck back on his way when he bought the Post painting in a sale in his native town a few weeks ago, according to the same sources. As no one had really noticed it was a view of the town and homestead of Frederik at Paraiba, Brazil and that it bore the 443 inventory number of the French King Louis XIV on the back of the unrelined canvas, he got it for almost nothing with the help of his nephews as bidders, the sources added.
Post was the first artist trained in the Old World to paint landscapes of the New World.
He was employed at the age of 25 by Prince Johann Maurits of Nassau during the short-lived Dutch Empire in Brazil and stayed in Pernambuco from 1637 to 1644.
Frans Post painted at least 18 large canvases during his sojourn in Brazil that were later given by the prince to King Louis XIV. Of these panoramic vistas, the one sold in New York measures 60.3 x 84.5 cm, the whereabouts of 12 have been unknown since the 18th Century. Now 11 remain to be rediscovered. Of the six previously known paintings, four are in the Louvre, one is in the Mauritshuis in Holland and the other was sold by Sotheby's New York in May 1994 for
US $ 3,750,000.
After his return to Holland, Post embarked upon a successful career painting exclusively exotic landscapes her had kept in memory. These views were quite in demand during his life-time as about 150 of these exist. The one sold on January 30th was quite unique as it was painted in Brazil and dated 1638. It is therefore a major addition to the artist's early works. One should note that this scene was known to scholars through
a contemporary print, a drawing no in the British Museum and
a copy done in water-colour in the 18th century but the whereabouts of the work itself had been unknown for the past 200 years.
Post had been commissioned by Prince Johan Maurits to depict the land recently acquired by the Dutch and the paintings he produced remained in the possession of the latter until 1679 when he decided to give his Brazilian collections to the King of France. The paintings were exhibited for some time in the Grande Galerie de Versailles as the Sotheby's catalogue underlined and they remained in the palace until at least the mid-18th Century. In the following 100 years the canvases vanished mysteriously, presumably during the sombre days of the French Revolution.
Post was in fact a pioneer, being the first European artist to set foot in the New World and to discover a completely new and different natural setting and as such established himself as one of the Grand masters of the 17th Century. A. Darmon