Home Arts Works by Renoir, Degas and Goya from Rhode Island School of Design’s Founding Family Collection Go to Auction

Works by Renoir, Degas and Goya from Rhode Island School of Design’s Founding Family Collection Go to Auction

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Art long held in the collection assembled by the family that founded the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is expected to sell for more than $8 million when it goes up for auction at Christie’s New York next month.

Works from the Estate of Sophie F. Danforth, including pieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Francisco Goya, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Honoré Daumier will be included in the Christie’s Marquee Evening Sale of 20th Century Art in May. Danforth, who died in 2019, married Murray Snell Danforth Jr, a descendant of Jesse Metcalf, who in 1877 founded RISD, one of the best art schools in the United States. (Danforth’s daughter, Stephanee Chaffee, is married to Lincoln Chafee, a former senator and governor of Rhode Island who briefly ran for president in 2016 and 2020.)

“It’s a time capsule of what you could collect 100 years ago if you had great taste, knew the right people and had the means. It’s a kind of setting,” says Max Carter, Christie’s vice president for 20th and 21st century art in the Americas.

The paintings and drawings have been part of the Danforth family collection for decades. The pieces for sale at Christie’s were collected by Danforth’s mother-in-law, Helen Metcalf Danforth, who served as president of RISD.

Barre dancer (1877) by Edgar Degas Courtesy of Christie’s

“Collections tend to be dispersed over time and across generations, which is why it’s very rare to see such a large number of works acquired from the 1930s,” says Carter.

The collection is directed by Renoir Trinity Square (1878-79), a painting which has been loaned for multiple international exhibitions and has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and was featured in a 2007 exhibition of landscapes by Renoir who traveled to the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Canada and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Trinity Square is expected to sell for between $4 million and $6 million.

Degas pastel Barre dancer (1877) has been in the Danforth family collection since 1936. The drawing, which Christie’s says is considered by scholars to be part of the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877, should sell for between $2 and $3 million.

A horse covering a donkey, while riding its owner, a monkby Francisco Goya Courtesy of Christie’s

Another highlight is a Goya drawing estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. Title A horse covering a donkey, while riding its owner, a monkthe sale of the drawing follows the record auction of Goya’s set of mother-daughter portraits which sold for $16.4 million earlier this year.

The Three Judges by Honoré Daumier Courtesy of Christie’s

at Daumier The Three Judges is one of the artist’s relatively understated caricatures of powerful figures and explores courtroom dynamics; it is expected to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000. At the circus: Elephant on the loose (1899) is one of 50 works Toulouse-Lautrec produced while living in the Folie Saint James asylum just outside Paris. The drawing is estimated between 400,000 and 600,000 dollars.

Henri from Toulouse-Lautrec At the circus: Elephant on the loose (1899) Courtesy of Christie’s

Other works from Danforth’s collection will be featured in daily sales next month, Carter said. The Danforth estate is the latest single-owner collection to be announced by auction houses for their spring sales. Work that belonged to the musical director of Warner Bros. Mo Ostinchicago trader Alan Press and his wife Dorothy, late Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston administrator Gerald Fineberg, publishing billionaire SI Newhouse and co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen will all go on sale in New York in May.

Last week, hundreds of RISD students left the class in solidarity with the university’s janitorial, moving and grounds maintenance staff, who have been on strike since early April over contract negotiations. On Tuesday 18 April, union members ratified a new contract, ending the strike.

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