Death of an International & Prosperous Dealer

Catalogue de Tableaux Capitaux des Ecoles de Hollande, de Flandre, d’Italie et de France, dont la Vente…aura lieu dans sa maison…le Mercredi matin 8 avril 1835…

Wood-engraved vignettes on upper & lower wrappers, one large folding lithographed frontis. 8vo (210 x 140 mm.), orig. printed wrappers, stitched as issued. Paris: Coutellier & C. Paillet; London: Wootburn frères [sic.]; Bruxelles: Héris, 1835.

A very scarce catalogue, in original state, of the personal art collection of Lafontaine (1758-1835), who “took care to prepare every new stage in his career without ever allowing himself to be affected by the political or economic changes.”–Blumenfeld, p. 218. Born in Flanders, he trained under the artists Kaplan van Neste and Jean Douelle. After his acceptance into the Académie, Lafontaine exhibited a number of paintings at the Salons of 1789 and 1791, and developed close ties with several painters, including Greuze. It also seems that Parisian experts had engaged him as an agent and scout starting in 1779; he devoted himself entirely to dealing some time in the mid-1790s. Lafontaine took full advantage of fluctuations in taste and supply and successfully arbitraged between England and the Continent throughout his career. Among countless profitable transactions, one of his most famous was an exchange with the Prince of Wales for Rembrandt’s The Standard Bearer (now coll. Elie de Rothschild) in return for a group of lesser paintings.

The present auction catalogue begins with an informative memorial likely written by the expert of the sale, Charles Paillet (son of the great dealer, A.J. Paillet), who recalls Lafontaine as a helpful and enterprising colleague. It then describes 32 paintings (by da Vinci, del Sarto, Schedoni, Potter, Berghem, van Dyck, Callot, S. Bourdon, Lafontaine himself, etc.). Lot 1, a painting of Herodias receiving the head of John the Baptist (reproduced with the folding frontis.), is attributed to da Vinci; however, this composition, of which there are three known variants — one at the National Gallery in London, and another, possibly the original, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna — is now re-attributed to Cesare da Cesto (1477-1523), one of the so-called Leonardeschi. Paillet provides measurements and lengthy descriptions for most of the paintings. The final six lots consist of drawings, books, and Lafontaine’s collection of sale catalogues.

A fascinating sale catalogue of a noteworthy dealer’s personal collection. In original state and nice condition.

❧ Lugt 13949.

C. Blumenfeld, “Pierre-Joseph Lafontaine and his Exploitation of European Art Market Imbalances in Paris and London, 1795-1815“ (pp. 217-30), in S. Avery-Quash & C. Huemer, eds., London and the Emergence of a European Art Market, 1780-1820 (2019), p. 218–“Lafontaine in fact played an important role in the development of the European art market during this period beset by major upheavals. For the years 1795-1815 alone, the Getty Provenance Index records 1,690 transactions under his name in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, and Great Britain, and demonstrates that he was drawing far superior profits from the market than his Parisian colleagues. Most importantly, he was the only Fleming equally at ease in Paris and London and the only dealer whose business survived the political vicissitudes, enabling him to continue working from the 1780s to the July Monarchy.” See this chapter for a wonderful in-depth examination of Lafontaine’s evolution from artist to titan of the European art trade.

Price: $2,500.00

Item ID: 6815