Auctions: Rubin's Arab period

A remarkable early Palestinian-period by Reuven Rubin, from 1924, leads Sotheby's New York sale of Israeli art.

rubin art 88 224 (photo credit: )
rubin art 88 224
(photo credit: )
A remarkable early Palestinian-period Rubin, Ramparts of Jerusalem, an oil from 1924, leads Sotheby's annual New York sale of Israeli art on December 18. Highly stylized in what was to become Rubin's signature style for the next five years, it may well top a hoped-for $300,000. The only figure in this studio painting is a tiny one of an Arab woman leading a laden donkey up to one of the city's gates, via a walled path lined on one side with cypresses. For the next few years, Arab fishermen and Arab fruit vendors, mostly from Jaffa, were to be among the newly arrived painter's favorite subjects. In lot 98 of this sale, a later and rather pretty Rubin oil of a window with a vase of flowers, circa 1963/4, also has a tiny depiction of an Arab couple with a donkey in the background. This oil also has an estimate of $200,000-$300,000. Funnily enough, a large Rubin head of a Jaffa Arab currently adorns a poster for a Jewish event printed by New York's Jewish Museum. The Arab wears a typical Arab crocheted skullcap, which the JM has mistaken for a kippa. It should know better. Mordecai Ardon, Abel Pann, Josef Zaritzky, Mane Katz, Raffi Lavie, Ori Reisman and Avigdor Arikha are all well represented in this sale. I did not like any of the other Rubins, nor the Kislings. Of historical interest is a wall painted on six wooden panels by Yosl Bergner in the late 1950s and which adorned the Cafe Kassit in Tel Aviv after 1960. Haskel, the famed host of the Kassit, appears in one of the windows. This jolly masque is expected to do better than $100,000. THERE ARE two fine portraits by Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921) in Sotheby's Judaica sale in New York on December 19. The boy in a shtreimel seated before a parochet was probably the artist's son ($200,000-$300,000) and the even more touching head of a sober new bride in a rich sterntichel (richly jeweled piece of the cloth covering her newly shaven head) was modeled by the painter's daughter. Kaufmann knocked out many versions of these best-sellers but all are equally well done. The newly rich but saddened bride has a somewhat lower estimate of $150,000-$200,000. A highlight of this sale is a Spanish Hebrew Bible from 1300; a wonderfully illustrated 18th-century Hebrew Haggada and an illuminated Esther scroll from 19th-century India. There's a vast array of silver and brass Hanukka lamps and quite wondrous central European lamps and spice towers. The catalog is a knockout.