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Henri Stresor (Paris 1613?-1679 Paris), The Oyster Eater. Oil on canvas, 107 x 89 cm

PARIS.- A painting that once belonged to Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839), the half-brother of Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte, is among the superb selection of Old Masters being shown by Bernheimer-Colnaghi at the XXVth Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris from 15 to 22 September 2010. (Stand no. S02)

The Oyster Eater, which shows a young man caught in the act of eating an oyster, was painted by Henri Stresor (1613?-1679) and has an asking price of 1.75 million euros.

Very little is known about the life of this artist. Said to be of German extraction and to have lived in Paris from 1644, he painted in the style of the Le Nain brothers and executed several portraits of Louis XIV and other high-ranking members of Parisian aristocracy.

Cardinal Joseph Fesch formed one of the largest private collections of paintings in the early 19th century comprising some 16,000 works, the finest of which were displayed in his Roman residence, the Palazzo Falconieri. When most of his collection was sold in 1844 after his death, the catalogue ascribed this painting to Antoine Le Nain, and this was accepted until 1993, when Pierre Rosenberg published a new catalogue raisonné of works by the Le Nain brothers. Doubts were raised over the traditional attribution, and cleaning revealed Stresor’s signature on the left corner of the cloth.

It is appropriate that this venerable firm should come to Paris in its 250th anniversary year as its remarkable story began in that city in 1760 when Colnaghi was founded by an enterprising firework manufacturer, Giovanni Battista Torre. Today it is the world’s oldest commercial art gallery and the only survivor of the grand Old Master galleries in London ’s Old Bond Street , having been acquired by Konrad O. Bernheimer in 2002.

Amongst the fine works on offer will be The Ill-Matched Lovers by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Studio (1472-1553) (asking price 680,000 euros). The subject of this exquisitely painted small panel, which depicts a grotesque old man and a knowing, youthful beauty, was a popular theme in 16th century art. By presenting a rather erotic image in the guise of a morality lesson, the artist was afforded a degree of licentiousness which might otherwise have been unacceptable. The theme of the deadly sins of lust and avarice personified by a lascivious old man and a young, beautiful woman goes back to antiquity and was probably introduced into German painting by Cranach.

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Lucas Cranach the Elder and Studio (Kronach 1472-1553 Weimar), The Ill-Matched Lovers. Oil on panel, 19 x 14 cm

Colnaghi has recently acquired a splendid, recently-discovered portrait by Anton Von Maron of James Byres (1733-1817)  (asking price 510,000 euros) , the Scottish 18th century architect, art dealer and antiquary.  Byres played a key role in the Roman art market in the 18th century, supplying antiquities and Old Master paintings to visiting Grand Tourists.  Although trained as an architect, he is best known as a dealer whose triumphs included the sale of the Portland Vase, now in the British Museum, to Sir William Hamilton and of Poussin’s series of Seven Sacraments, now at Belvoir Castle, which Byres sold to the Duke of Rutland in 1785, both purchased from Roman aristocratic collections.   He also owned Poussin’s Assumption, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The present portrait, by Anton Von Maron (1733-1808), one of the leading portrait painters in Rome, was probably painted around the time of his election to the Accademia di San Luca in 1768, where he had won 3rd prize for architectural design in 1762, and features one of his drawings prominently in the foreground.  Never previously exhibited, the painting comes from a private collection.

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Anton Von Maron (Vienna 1733-1808 Rome), Portrait of James Byres. Oil on canvas, 73.4 cm x 60.6 cm

In the 18th century there was a considerable vogue for landscapes showing contrasting seasons or times of the day, and Colnaghi will be offering Autumn and Winter by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808)  (asking price 545,000 euros), one of the most accomplished French landscape painters of the period as well as an influential decorative draughtsmen in Europe. Pillement produced his first sets of landscapes in the mid 1750s, during his English period, and undoubtedly the enthusiasm which the English showed for his work gave a major impetus to his landscape painting. His travels in Portugal, Italy and the South of France provided him with a large portfolio of plein-air drawings upon which he drew for his vivid reconstructions of the Mediterranean countryside, such as this charming pair of landscapes.

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Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808), Autumn, 1792. Oil on canvas, one of a pair, 55.2 x 78.7 cm

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Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808), Winter, 1792. Oil on canvas, one of a pair, 55.2 x 78.7 cm