Auction  June 17, 2024  Carlota Gamboa

A Twice-Stolen Titian Expected To Break Personal Sale Record In July

Courtesy of Christie's

Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Titian, c.1510

Tiziano Vecello, otherwise known as Titian, is estimated to set a new record for his twice-stolen painting at Christie’s Old Masters sale held in London on July 2nd. The painting, most likely completed by the Italian Renaissance master circa 1510 during his adolescence, hasn’t been at auction since it was last sold at Christie’s in 1878 for 350 guineas. 

Now, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is looking to bring in anywhere between $19 and $32 million to the auction house. Titian’s previous sale record was set in 2011 by A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria, which went for $16.9 million at Sotheby's in New York.

Wikimedia Commons

The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm's Gallery in Brussels, painted by Teniers, c. 1650 where Rest on the Flight into Egypt can be seen to the right of the door. License

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt’s whereabouts have been thoroughly documented, for the most part, throughout the years. Originally appearing alongside works of Bellini, Giorgione, Tintoretto, and Veronese in the collection of Venetian arts patron and spice merchant, Bartolomeo della Nave, the painting would soon fall into the hands of the Habsburgs. 

Though Titan was primarily working for Phillip II of Spain during the final years of his life, the early work landed with the king’s nephew, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria. From there, it would travel to Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, before it was left to his daughter, Maria Theresa— Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia— followed by her son, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. The painting would then be looted by French troops for the Musée Napoléon, now referred to as the Louvre.

Titian, c. 1556-1559

Titian's Diana and Actaeon

The last time the two-foot Titian sold (in 1878), it was acquired by an art dealer who then re-sold it to the fourth Marquess of Bath, John Alexander Thynne. It would hang in the Thynne’s family home, Longleat House in Wiltshire, until it was taken from the property in 1995. Apparently, the 7th Marquess of Bath had been watching television in another section of the house when the art theft took place. He told reporters, “It is most sad that it has been taken from under one’s nose.” 

From there, it would be up to renowned art detective Charles Hill to find the £5 million painting’s location. However, it wasn’t until seven years later when Hill would strike up a deal to exchange the painting— which was left at a bus stop, rolled up in a shopping bag— for a £100,000 reward. 

Besides the work by Titian, Christie’s Old Masters sale will also feature a portrait of Queen Elizabeth by George Gower, a late Frans Hals, and the recently restored The Madonna of the Cherries, by Quentin Metsys. This is also expected to break Metsys’ personal sale record.

About the Author

Carlota Gamboa

Carlota Gamboa is an art writer based in Los Angeles.

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