A collection of gold-ground Italian paintings, many of which were by some of the original old masters, have been sold at one of the first major auctions of artworks so far this year.
International art dealer, Fabrizio Moretti, sold a collection of the rare paintings in a sale that stirred up some controversy, thanks to the enormous sums they were sold for.
The first surprise was a 14th-century work attributed to Simone Martini, which fetched a staggering $4.1 million, which Moretti claimed was relatively inexpensive compared with the prices paid for contemporary art. Following the Martini, was a Madonna and child scene thought to be painted by Botticelli, which fetches $4.6 million from a private collector, despite being priced at a rather modest $1 million.
The J. Paul Getty Museum purchased several pieces to add to its collection from the period. What made this sale exceptionally rare was that the paintings are what is known as ‘gold ground’ artworks, which predate canvas and are usually painted on a base of wood covered in a thin, but perfect layer of gold leaf.
The practice of preparing a wooden surface like this was most common in the 15th and 16th centuries and involved coating a piece of timber in grounds of gesso, which gave it a textured surface. They would then be completely or partially covered in gold leaf, which would have been applied with large, soft-bristled brush. This would then dry hard, thanks to a mixture of egg white and water.
The gold base to the largely religious scenes painted in Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries were lent a certain quality thanks to the way the colours and the gold base reacted with each other. Some painters, like Stephan Lochner and Cennini, were particularly effective with the gold they used, adding to the finished picture to add yet more highlights ad tones.
Buying gold leaf is of course, a lot more expensive these days than it was centuries ago, with the value of gold increasing day by day in response to increase demand.
As one needs to exchange a huge amount of cash for gold
these days, the allure of the precious metal has never greater and it could be this that stimulated the demand for these painting at the moment.
Although several masterpieces went unsold at the auction, which was held in New York last week, this has been attributed to their being overpriced in the past. It seems the rarest gold-ground pieces were the best sellers and that buyers were still queuing up to part with millions for these iridescent portraits and still-lifes.
jewellery has also become a lucrative pastime for anyone who happens to be holding onto any scrap or broken gold jewellery. August saw gold prices
per ounce increase further and there has really never been a better time to see how much cash for gold you could accumulate.
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