Significant Modigliani Drawings Head to Auction

A suite of six Amedeo Modigliani drawings are going under the hammer as part of a private collector’s sale, which makes up more than 400 pieces.

Significant Modigliani Drawings Head to Auction

Artcurial, the Paris-based multidisciplinary auction house, is hosting the sale of Joseph Altounian, antique dealer to museums and friend to artists over 17 and 18 September, which also coincides with Paris Biennale. Over 400 items are being offered within the sale, including objects, sculpture and furniture, not to mention the exciting suite of six Amedeo Modigliani drawings, of which prices reach to the hundreds of thousands of pounds mark, testifying to the quality.  

Born in Armenia, Joseph Altounian (1890-1954), a well-known name in the French antique trade, was an antique dealer and collector. Altounian’s collection, which traverses three generations of antiquarians, is packed full of exceptional quality. Some of the works that passed through his hands can now be found in the greatest collections and museums in the world. It is a significant portion of this Altounian family collection which is being offered with Artcurial. 

Amedeo Modigliani, ‘Tête (Head)’. Photo: Artcurial
Amedeo Modigliani, ‘Tête (Head)’. Photo: Artcurial

The Amedeo Modigliani Tête (Head) from 1911-12 is undoubtedly one of the most exciting lots from the collection. Modigliani was born in 1884 into a family of four children in Livorno, Italy. His youth was punctuated by bouts of serious health issues, but he nonetheless practised his art skills and enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo of the Fine Arts Academy of Florence. Then, at age 22, he set off with his paintbrushes for Paris, where he lived in a commune in Montmartre. Today, he is one of the most celebrated and expensive artists at auction – for both 2D and sculpture. 

Tête, a pencil on paper, is signed and dedicated “Max J/ to our friend/ Marc Brésil/ Modigliani” bottom right. 

Amedeo Modigliani, ‘Jeune homme assis au chapeau (Young man seated with a hat)’. Photo: Artcurial
Amedeo Modigliani, ‘Jeune homme assis au chapeau (Young man seated with a hat)’. Photo: Artcurial

The six drawings by Modigliani within the sale were kept by the family until now. Modigliani was himself a good friend of Joseph Altounian, and the works are listed by antiquarian in his goods register. 

Other impressive works within this suite of six are a watercolour and blue pencil on paper, titled Jeune homme assis au chapeau (Young man seated with a hat), created in 1916 and signed “To my friend Altounian, Modigliani, and the intimate piece Portrait de Joseph Altounian (Portrait of Joseph Altounian), bearing the following testimony by Max Jacob: “I certify that this is the portrait done of Altounian by Modigliani in 1917”. 

Egypt, Meir Necropolis, Middle Kingdom, 11th-12th Dynasty, ‘Dignitary Statuette in Wood’. Photo: Artcurial
Egypt, Meir Necropolis, Middle Kingdom, 11th-12th Dynasty, ‘Dignitary Statuette in Wood’. Photo: Artcurial

While the Modiglianis are, of course, an exciting part of the sale, other works are equally appealing, each with its own unique style and history. For example, the sale features a significant array of statues.  

Egyptian pieces, such as a wooden statuette of an Egyptian dignitary and an ancient Egyptian scribe in limestone, as well as numerous Roman and Gothic sculptures, are a reminder of the pieces that Joseph Altounian sold to the greatest private and museum collections in the world.

Cluny, Burgundy, Probably from the Abbey, c. 1115-1130, ‘Torso of a bearded man or prophet’. Photo: Artcurial
Cluny, Burgundy, Probably from the Abbey, c. 1115-1130, ‘Torso of a bearded man or prophet’. Photo: Artcurial

Also being offered is a limestone torso of a prophet, a limestone bas-relief depicting two busts of evangelists in medallions, and a wooden Virgin with Child sculpture (Northern France or the Mosane region).

Stéphane Aubert, auctioneer and Associate Director of Artcurial, says of the sale, “The Joseph Altounian Collection is a rare and precious testimony to the ties between this family of antiquarians and the leading artists of the 20th century (Auguste Rodin, Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani...). Artcurial is proud to unveil the unique collection owned by a family that has supplied the greatest American museums, and collectors the world over.”

Explore all items available from Artcurial here

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