For a spell in 1914, Alberto Martini was the toast of the London art world. ‘There can be no question that these drawings are the most masterly that have been seen in public for years,’ The Times enthused of his solo show at Goupil Gallery that year. There have been few chances since to see the Italian’s work here first hand – but now, with a display at London Art Week’s winter edition (3–10 December) that draws on many years of research by Monica Cardarelli, Laocoon Gallery (of which Cardarelli is a director) is presenting Londoners with another opportunity to be spooked by his homages to Edgar Allan Poe, Mallarmé and Shakespeare. Precursors of Surrealism (and many a work of heavy-metal album art), these nightmarish visions in pen and India ink promise to lend an added chill to the dark winter nights. They’re also a reflection of what London Art Week does best: offering both collectors and casual visitors the results of the latest scholarship beyond the walls of museums.
Monstrous figures can be found elsewhere among the galleries of Mayfair and St James’s this month – Daniel Katz Gallery is showing a Florentine basin in the shape of a man’s leonine head, sprouting leathery wings from its ears – but there are also more delicate realisations of the human form. Debutant Patrick Bourne & Co presents ‘The Human Form on Paper – In Movement and Repose’; the highlight here is a watercolour by Stanley Cursiter of 1920, of two meticulously rendered bathers in front of a foggy, impressionistic lake. With a display of 25 drawings from the 15th–20th centuries, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art is hosting something of a housewarming for the gallery’s new premises at Park Street in Mayfair; the guest list includes Boucher, Fragonard, Gauguin, Ingres and Schiele.
The rediscovery of a drawing by Albrecht Dürer forms the basis for Agnews’ exhibition. New additions to the oeuvre of an artist as closely documented and studied as Dürer are a rare event – this is the first time that the work, a highly finished pen-and-ink study for the German artist’s Virgin with a Multitude of Animals of 1506, has ever been seen in public. Colnaghi shifts the scene to Naples – intriguingly, works by Ribera and other masters play second fiddle here to an enormous piece of 18th-century Neapolitan folk art: a presepe, or nativity scene, teeming with carved and painted wooden figures who sit before a ruined temple.
Adding some glitter to proceedings, Koopman Rare Art presents a display of Regency silver and silver-gilt objects that reveal the enduring influence through art history of the Shield of Achilles, as described by Homer – it includes an especially opulent rendering of the shield by Philip Rundell, made for the King of Hanover in 1823. At Kunstkammer Georg Laue, meanwhile, is an exquisite silver-gilt table decoration in the form of a nef, or ship on wheels, concocted in the 1640s by Georg Müllner of Nuremberg. Fitted to the bow is a spout, ending in a dragon-shaped nozzle through which courtiers would see their shirts liberally splashed with wine, stored in the ship’s hull, to the amusement of whichever of their companions had just wheeled it across the banqueting table. Table centrepiece, party trick and drinking vessel in one, then, should anyone have designs on a particularly lavish Christmas dinner.
London Art Week takes place at various venues in Mayfair and St James’s, London, from 3–10 December.