A more than 400-year-old Rubens painting, worth an estimated R8 million, is on auction in Cape Town.
Sir Peter Paul Rubens is considered the most influential artist of Flemish Baroque tradition. It was painted between the period 1598 and 1609 when Rubens was in his 20s.
Despite its age, the artwork is in excellent condition.
Entitled “Portrait of a Gentleman” it depicts an elderly man with an oversized white ruffled collar and long blond beard. The colour, texture and fine detail exquisite, is a mark of the mastery of the artist.
The portrait was purchased by a German-Jewish doctor in 1925 in Amsterdam, and has remained within the family since. He came to South Africa before the outbreak of World War 2.
Experts spent months verifying the authenticity and researching the history of the unsigned artwork. Fine Art expert at Stephan Welz & Co, Luke Crossley has described the painting as a treasured possession.
“He resolved to leave Germany and what was quite fascinating to find out that he entrusted all of his possessions to one of his patients, which allowed him to leave Germany and his possessions were returned to him and it’s wonderful to think of the people involved and the trust and the belief that was part of this. He then had to make the decision whether to go to America or South Africa, and luckily for us, he chose South Africa and kept this painting with him.”
The auction closes on Friday afternoon. Crossley, says the specific auction process while it does seem a little different, the unique artwork, steeped in rich history justified that change.
“The auction is a little bit different as to how we would normally operate, we’ve been running the auction over last week and this week, closing off end of the day. Today its whats called sealed commission, with a work like this to give it a little bit of special treatment. So what we’ve done is it allows both local and international interest to take the time to view the work, to do research, to speak to us, come to us in confidentiality and place a bid on the work.”
Works by masters like Rubens are often only found in museums and seldom in private collections.