From a homoerotic Marsden Hartley to a Yoshitomo Nara painting of Michael Jackson: our pick of the highlights from April’s sales

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Attributed to Claudio Francesco Beaumont, Chryseis returned to her father and Quarrel of Achilles and Agamemnon, (around 1740s)

Hotel Bauer Palazzo, Artcurial, Venice, 24 April

Estimate: €40,000 to €80,000

It is not exactly known how this pair of large portraits by the Turinese painter Claudio Francesco Beaumont ended up in the Hotel Bauer in Venice, an 18th-century palazzo near St Mark’s Square that has, for the past 140 years, served as a high society haunt. The building is now closed for three years to undergo a major refurbishment, funded in part by the sale of around 10,000 objects in its collection. There is no record of the Beaumont paintings entering the hotel and they were likely acquired after the 1950s, as they are not present in archival images of the hotel from the 1940s and 50s, according to Elisabeth Bastier, an Old Master specialist at Artcurial. Nonetheless, despite this spotty provenance history, they are estimated at the very upper end of Beaumont’s market, where prices have eclipsed €30,000 on just two occasions. “Beaumont used to work at the court of Charles Emmanuel III, Duke of Savoy in Turin, who sent him to Venice in 1737 to acquire paintings,” Bastier says of the artist’s connection to La Serenissima. “This allowed him to get closer to the painters in Venice and the local art scene.” The works depict a scene from Homer’s Iliad. On the left, Achilles draws a sword against Agamemnon for taking his concubine, Chryseis, from him. The goddess Athena is seen attempting to hold Achilles back by his hair. In the right panel, Chryseis is returned to her father, Chryses of Troy.

Courtesy Christie’s

Marsden Hartley, On the Beach, 1940-41

Modern American Masterworks from the Ted Shen Collection, Christie’s New York, 21 April

Estimate: $1.5m to $2.5m

The American Modernist Marsden Hartley was, until the last five years of his life, best known as a landscape painter, but a late-career turn towards figuration saw him realise some of his most critically celebrated works. This present lot is one of three known paintings by him to depict figures at Old Orchard Beach in southern Maine—once known as the “Coney Island of New England” for its liberal atmosphere. Like much of Hartley’s figurative work, men are depicted in a hypermasculine fashion with blocky bodies—“a fraternity of stoic, often solitary, rural hunks: lobster fishermen, lumberjacks, and athletes,” writes the curator Randall R. Griffey in a catalogue essay for a 2017 solo show of Hartley’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. These depictions are interpreted by most scholars as relating to the artist’s unconfirmed homosexuality. Perhaps in an attempt to adhere to the social mores of the time, a female figure is included in this work to pare down its homoeroticism, Griffey argues. The work is being offered in a single-owner sale of works from the collection of the musical theatre composer Ted Shen and his wife Mary Jo, to benefit their philanthropic organisations.

Courtesy Lyon & Turnbull

Amedeo Modigliani, Head of a Girl (1917)

Avant Garde: Art from 1900 to Now, Lyon & Turnbull, London, 27 April

Estimate: £40,000 to £60,000

The artist John Christopher “Kit” Wood bought this sparse line drawing by Modigliani just a few years before the latter died, aged 35. The two mixed in similar bohemian Parisian circles, which Wood was introduced to by his patron and one-time lover, the Chilean lawyer José Antonio Gandarillas. While the terms of the work’s sale to Wood are unrecorded, it is known that he later sold it to his London dealer, Alex Reid at Lefevre Gallery, in March 1930, less than six months before his own death by suicide, aged 28. The work is offered in the inaugural Avant Garde: Art from 1900 to Now sale by Lyon & Turnbull, held at the Mall Galleries in London. This is a category that the Lyon & Turnbull specialist Simon Hucker says will help to expand the category of Modern British Art to include, among others, immigrant artists who found their homes in London before and after the wars. 

Courtesy Sotheby’s © Kathleen Hoare

Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar, Untitled, 1960

The Al Zayani collection, Sotheby’s London, 25 April

Estimate: £40,000-£60,000

This painting comes from a brief transition period for the influential Egyptian Modernist artist Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar, when he stepped back from the religious Sufism that defined his early career and which preceded his later exploration of themes of industrialisation and spatial conquest. During this interim period, the artist travelled to Rome and produced a series of portraits. The majority adorn their sitters with flamboyant folkloric motifs, making this particular work unusual for its sparing details and muted palette. It was previously owned by the prominent collector Mohammed Said Farsi, who served as Lord Mayor of Jeddah in the 1970s and 80s. It now comes to the block as part of a single owner sale from the collection of Abdulrahman Al Zayani.

Courtesy Poly Auction Hong Kong

Yoshitomo Nara, Acid MJ, 2009

Poly Auction Evening Sale, Hong Kong, 29 April

Estimate: HKD 34m to 44m ($4.3m to $5.6m)

The Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara is collected by celebrities the world over, from the BTS rapper RM to the fashion designer Stella McCartney, with whom Nara collaborated for a collection last year. But few depictions of celebrities exist in Nara’s oeuvre, and this painting of pop star Michael Jackson is the only known depiction of a musician by him. Still, Western popular culture is undoubtedly present in his work, where it is merged with Japanese iconography to form his lucrative signature style. The artist has previously spoken about how his first exposure to Western culture was through music in the 1970s and 80s played on the radio in Japan. At the time Michael Jackson was at the peak of his career and would no doubt have been familiar to Nara.

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