At Christie’s NY Goya’s rare drawing tests art market expectations about Trump

Stefano Pirovano  -  January 24, 2017

A set of 131 main Old Masters’ drawings goes under the hammer today in New York, at the Rockfeller Center, starting from 10 am local time, and that is going to be not only the first auction of this kind to take place in NY in over 15 years at Christie’s. It is also the first main sale of classic art of the era we all entered a few days ago with the disquieting swearing-in ceremony of President Donald Trump and the ocean of women protesting against it. That is why the sale’s top lot, A hunter with his dog in a landscape probably executed by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes between 1814 and 1822 piqued our interest (P. De Vecchi, 2005).

This relatively small drawing, estimated to sell between $ 600.000 and 800.000, is part of an album named with the letter “F” and known as Sepia or Spain Album. The Met in New York preserves some of the best pieces from this group of works. The F album, the one with the greatest variety of subjects and compositions of all Goya’s albums, contains 106 drawings the artist did in brown ink and watermarks, probably using the point of a thin brush, and likely experimenting the effects of the sepia wash. Generally no captions are describing the images. Some of them may recall topics and ideas Goya represented in the ‘Caprichos’ and in the ‘The Disasters of War’, but there is no relation between most of the drawings with the exception of a first group of 5, representing duels, and a second group of 10 which are dedicated to hunting.

If the dating is correct, Goya could have made this latter sub-group in 1815, when he was painting the small self-portrait currently preserved at the Academia de San Fernando. Otherwise he could have made them in 1819, when he bought his new country house near Madrid, the so called Quinta del sordo. At the time he was 73, and later that year he got heavily sick. The touching portrait he painted after he recovered, perhaps in order to thank his saviour Doctor Arrieta, is preserved at the Institute of Art in Minneapolis. Moreover, on the background of this troubled period in the artist’s career Teheran are the ‘black paintings’, a series of frescos he executed probably just for the sake of it directly on the walls of la Quinta del Sordo.

The seller bought this painting at Sotheby’s in January 2009, hence a few months after the crash of Lehman’s Brothers. Despite the financial disaster he was able to pay the piece $ 698,500, including buyers premium. Will Trump’s aggressive fiscal policy and promises of future economic growth will be enough to make the current owner make a significant gain? In case, it could be read as a good sign finally announcing the art market recovery.