Souren Melikian makes no secret in the New York Times when he feels the art market has made a mistake. In last week’s Old Master sales he spotted some overlooked gems and overvalued dross at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. First Sotheby’s:
Two marvelous French paintings fell under the radar of most professionals. An Italianate landscape by the great Claude Gellée was recently recognized as the master’s own work. The beauty of its mellow sunlight and of the evening haze that envelops the vegetation is unsurpassed. Where one might have expected competition to break out, only one hand went up, that of Luca Baroni. At $482,500, the London-based dealer bought unchallenged one of the gems of the sale. If anything beat that coup, it was the admirable portrait of a young girl by Simon Vouet. This, too, only made it to the lower end of the estimate. At $122,500, the superlative museum picture was a steal.
And, now, Christie’s:
Offering in the same session a portrait of a late 19th-century socialite by Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta and a devotional panel with Jesus on the Cross by the 15th-century master Filippino Lippi is not a great idea. True, both sold, the Lippi for a modest $122,500, and Madarazo y Garreta’s likeness of one Mrs. Aline Mason for an astonishing $218,500.The problem with such pranks is that they do not raise the profile of an auction and go a long way to create a dull atmosphere.
Old Masters Set Off Intense Bidding (New York Times)