Lot 285
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American, 1874-1951), Christ with Sainted Knights
Lot Details & Additional Photographs
Oil on canvas, monogrammed at lower right, presented in a period gilt frame.

Stretcher size 30 1/4 x 20 in.; Frame dimensions 32 3/4 x 22 1/2 in.

J. C. Leyendecker’s illustrations and advertisements fueled a collective visual memory for the early 20th century American public. Over the course of his career, Leyendecker created 322 covers for The Saturday Evening Post, as well as numerous other magazines, including Collier’s and Ladies’ Home Journal. The only illustrator to eclipse his fame was Norman Rockwell and Rockwell was quick to credit Leyendecker as his mentor and inspiration.

This previously unknown work was recently discovered at a small country auction in South Carolina. It is likely an early work by Leyendecker, dating to circa 1900. The sinuous reddish orange flames emitted by the slain dragon recall the steam and vapors found in his later work, including an advertisement for Ivory Soap and a Thanksgiving cover for The Saturday Evening Post. The chiseled features and elegant expressions of the two knights and Christ are similar to those of his many successful advertising campaigns and illustrations. The inclusion of columns and the decorative border also are seen in works ranging from the 1901 Thanksgiving edition cover of Success magazine to the 1931 “Queen of Spring” cover for The Saturday Evening Post.

This illustration is an intriguing combination of religious and Arthurian iconography. The composition is anchored by a radiant Christ in white robes raising a jeweled golden crown. He is flanked by Parzival and a monk holding the Holy Grail. All three figures rise stoically above the prone figure of a slain young man and dragon, triumphing over evil and baser instincts set to destroy man. The symmetrical design of this painting leads one to believe it may have been designed for use as a magazine cover or book frontispiece.

This style of monogram relates directly to those used for a 1924 The Saturday Evening Post cover (Thanksgiving, November 29, 1924) and a 1905 illustration for Century Magazine, titled "Senator of Rome."

We wish to thank Mr. Kent Steine, a classically trained illustrator and author of The J. C. Leyendecker Collection, for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

Numerous patches and associated retouch; professionally cleaned and restored. Photographs before and after restoration available, along with a treatment report from the conservator.

$10,000 - 20,000