On the 22nd of November we will be presenting our quarterly Old Master, British & European Pictures sale. Among the standout lots of the auction is an ethereal mythological picture by the French painter Henri Fantin-Latour. The painting depicts Aurora, the goddess of dawn, chasing away the night. The dreamy, atmospheric picture is a rare late work by the artist, who later in life moved away from painting the still lifes for which he was very renowned, and towards more mystical subject matter.
Artists across the ages have taken inspiration from otherworldly subjects like mythology, legends and fairytales. We’ve rounded up our otherworldly favourites from the November sale.
One of the highlights is a fantastical drawing by the French draughtsman Jean Berain, which shows a costume design for ‘Songe Funeste’ or ‘Fateful Dream’ from the opera ‘Atys’ by the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. This is one of several whimsical French Baroque drawings in the auction, together with lots 25 and 27, which also show various playful theatrical characters and grotesques.
The auction also includes many great works on paper from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including three drawings by the Scottish painter Sir William Russell Flint, all showing partially clad female figures; a subject which features heavily in the artist’s oeuvre.
Russell Flint’s beautifully modelled rendition of a sleeping ‘Ariadne’ may be inspired by the myth of the Roman God Bacchus and Ariadne on the island of Naxos.
The subject of Bacchus and Ariadne is also depicted in a vibrant and dynamic mythological canvas dating from the 17th or early 18th century, thought to have been painted by an artist from the circle of the Dutch artist Gerard Hoet.
Another fantastical favourite is this costume sketch by the Russian artist Pavel Tchelitchew, who in his career as a theatre designer worked with ballet greats Sergei Diaghilev and Georges Balanchine. This remarkable and vivid drawing was conceived for Balanchine’s production of Mozart’s violin concerto no. 5. It has been estimated at £2,000-3,000.
A delicately rendered ‘fairy painting’ by Enid Sibyl Mills completes our magical roundup. This work takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The drawing is presented together with several other illustrations by Mills, and presents a great opportunity to collect works by this lesser-known female illustrator, whose drawings only rarely appear on the market.