Poland’s reputation as an art market hotspot has been further boosted with the announcement that Rubens’ 17th Century Portrait of a Woman will go under the hammer in Warsaw.
With an indicative price of PLN 18-24 million, experts say the piece could be the most expensive work of art ever sold in Poland.
Head of the auction house Juliusz Windorbski said: “Portraits of the Flemish painter are extremely rare in Europe, whereas in Poland a work of art of such historical, artistic and investment value is n has never been exhibited before.”
Tomasz Dziewicki, head of the auction house’s Ancient Art department, added that the appearance of such a rare and expensive painting as Portrait of a Lady is “phenomenal” and confirms the growing importance of Poland in the world. European art market.
He said: “The appearance of such a large and artistically beautiful portrait of Rubens is an extraordinary event, even more so considering its origins.
Its pre-auction display in the capital DESA Unicum is the first time since 1965 that the Baroque canvas has been shown to the public.
Painted around 1620-1625, Portrait of a Lady has been preserved for more than four centuries in the prestigious collections of European aristocrats, financiers and renowned collectors.
One of the first owners of the canvas was Sir Peter Lely, one of the leading painters in the British Isles at that time, an art collector and a friend of Rubens.
Then, for two centuries, the painting found its home in one of England’s most magnificent stately homes, Stowe Palace, in the collection of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos.
It was sold at Christie’s in London in 1848 and the painting passed between famous dealers and collectors: Robert Roe, the British financier and collector Wynne Ellis and the famous collector, diamond merchant and mining magnate Jules Porges.
In the mid-20th century, Portrait of a Lady was purchased by Egyptian Prince Muhammed Ali Ibrahim and Princess Hanzade, where it remained until 2011.
After the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the Egyptian royal family lived in exile in Paris. A photo published in the Parisian magazine Elle in 1957 shows Prince Muhammed Ali Ibrahim and the Hanzade princesses with their children seated in their Paris apartment, with the Rubens hanging in the background.
The painting was last seen at an exhibition in Brussels in 1965, and since 2011 it has been in private collections.
Who exactly is depicted in the painting has been the subject of some debate. The dark-eyed, dark-haired young woman in a black velvet dress was for more than 300 years believed to be a portrait of Isabella Brant, Rubens’ first wife, but is now thought to represent one of his sisters.
Another hypothesis is that the model belonged to the Duarte family, influential Jewish jewelers from Antwerp in the 17th century.
Hopes are high that the sale will set a new record in the Polish art market. Its target price of PLN 18-24 million easily exceeds the current record holder.
The painting Two Married Women by Andrzej Wróblewski was auctioned in November last year for PLN 13.44 million, which in turn beat the PLN 13.2 million fetched by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Crowd III , both of which were auctioned at DESA Unicum.
Rubens’ auction is expected to attract the attention of art collectors not only in the region but also around the world, as portraits of the artist often fetch high prices.
The Portrait of a Woman is not the only painting by Rubens currently in Poland. Another painting by this artist, Portrait of Anne of Austria, Queen of France and Queen Regent in the 17th century, is currently on display at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, registering a record number of visitors.
Wawel Royal Castle holds in its collections a portrait of the young Władysław IV Vasa by Rubens. Before becoming king, he visited the artist’s studio in 1624. The painting was donated to Wawel in 2020 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Five years ago, Portrait of Margherita Gonzaga by Rubens was exhibited at the Royal Łazienki in Warsaw, only the second time the painting was shown in public.
The Portrait of a Lady auction is scheduled for March 17.