Orientalist painting creates pre-auction buzz

Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:36pm EST
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By Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - An iconic 19th Century painting depicting an Ottoman Empire reserve soldier and his hunting dogs is generating buzz ahead of an auction next week, due to a rise in popularity of Orientalist art.

The artwork, "Master of the Hounds" by Jean Leon Gerome is expected to fetch $700,000 to $1 million on January 26, during Christie's auction of Old Master & 19th Century paintings, drawings and watercolors that could total as much as $56 million.

Gerome's paintings and the Orientalist genre overall -- which often depict Arab and North African subjects -- are experiencing a revival, according to Diana Branham, a specialist in 19th Century art at Christie's.

Museums in Paris, Los Angeles and Madrid have recently featured Gerome's work.

"Part of the reason Orientalist paintings fell out of favor is that they were seen as colonialist art," Branham explained. "Now there is a real effort to rethink these artists and see their historical importance. Popularity of genres really comes and goes in waves."

The art market is booming as the financial industry recovers following a painful global recession. Christie's estimates its global sales total for 2010 was $5 billion, a record annual total for the company.

Other art seen likely to garner attention is a previously unpublished anatomical study by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Until recently it was known only through two copies -- in the Royal Museum in Copenhagen and the Albertina in Vienna.

The piece is from the collection of a leading scholar of Rubens' work, Ludwig Burchard, which stayed in his family after his death in 1960. It is expected to sell for $100,000 -   Continued...