Frieze Masters 2021
The first piece is late work the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux. It is an unsettling outdoor scene, dominated by the nude figure of a fair-haired woman. She is a frequent but imaginary sitter for Delvaux: she crops up in various paintings like a muse, or like the recurrent anima of his dreams. She seems serenely unaware of the approaching lightning storm, and of the barbed-wire fence at her legs. The painting is full of meaningful portents: the nervous embrace of the two other women; the long hut with its lone watcher at the window; the heavy stone, like a flint axehead, that sits on the lawn …
No less symbolic in its way is the vibrant vase of flowers by Osias Beert the Younger, painted around 1610. The fallen petals hint at the transience of life, while the butterflies stand for rebirth. So these fading flowers speak piously of death and the hope of resurrection. At the same time, this bouquet seems positively modern, simultaneously realistic and stylised. All the flowerheads – the daffodils, irises, anemones and primroses – are so arranged as to be visible in their entirety, as if this were a formal, floral group portrait.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s portrayal of a wedding dance could hardly be less formal. It is one of the first of the many versions of this theme, painted around the same time as Beert’s dignified flowers. Here we see guests dancing a boisterous farandole, or kissing and drinking. The trees, with their twisted trunks, almost seem to be joining in the dance. Meanwhile a wistful bride sits at a distant table – but the groom is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he is one of the strutting foreground revellers, arms and legs akimbo.
Our final highlight is another wedding party, altogether more stately. It is Frans Francken the Younger’s Triumph of Neptune and Amphitrite. The sea-god and the sea-nymph are the bride and groom, enthroned on a rock surrounded by satyrs, seahorses, maenads and nereids. One of the striking things about the painting is the wide range of complexions and skintones in the wedding group. The sky and the water are suffused with deep blue hues, and in one corner there is a discreet composition of corals, starfish and nautiluses – all wonderfully observed.
The team is at your dispoal if you have any query on the works, and please come and visit us on our booth at Frieze Masters, where there are also some splendid pieces by Teniers, Grimmer, Lucio Fontana and Alexander Calder, among others. We will be very glad to see you here.