A spectacular and rarely seen painting of Venice comes on the market this month as Claude Monet’s Le Palais Ducal features in Sotheby’s London Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on February 26. Painted in 1908 and estimated at £20m-£30m, the work is one of just under 40 canvases Monet created during his three-month stay in La Serenissima that year. Stunned by the spectacle that greeted him when he arrived in the city, the artist declared it “too beautiful to paint”, a sentiment he fortunately later overcame with this view of Doge’s Palace’s gothic facade – one of three works that he created from a boat moored on the canal.
“This spellbinding painting is a true masterpiece and among the very greatest Monet painted during his first and only encounter with Venice,” says Helena Newman, worldwide head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department and chairman of Sotheby’s Europe. “Having remained in the same family collection since 1925, it presents a rare opportunity for collectors from all over the world to acquire a painting of this quality that is completely fresh to the market.”
Indeed, although the artwork was exhibited last year in the National Gallery’s Monet and Architecture show in London, its first public outing in 35 years, it has been in the same family since it was bought by Erich Goeritz, an important collector of impressionists, in 1925. The image is divided between the palace’s exterior and its reflection rippling in the water, both gently lit in pinks, blues and greens and evoking the atmosphere of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
But there are other treats in the sale as well. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of Egon Schiele’s death, sparking a renewed wave of global fascination in his work, which is sure to prompt interest in an oil and pencil on canvas, Triestiner Fischerboot (Trieste Fishing Boat) estimated at £6m-£8m. A modernist treatment in colour dating from 1912, it is up for auction for the first time.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art is adding Mädchen auf dem Diwan (Girl on a Divan) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to the star lots to benefit its acquisitions fund – painted in 1906, it is estimated at £2.8m-£3.8m. The expressionist painter was one of the founders of the artistic movement Die Brücke; the striking image of a reclining woman is measured in bold brush strokes.
And a Marc Chagall, Vase de Roses, painted in 1929, will also be at the event. Estimated at £1.5m-£2m, it dates from the period when Chagall first became interested in colourful clusters of flowers, an interest he maintained throughout his career. In this case, the flowers seem to be bursting out of a blue vase in an explosion of colour. You can almost smell the bouquet.