We know from last year’s surprise sale of Alma-Tadema’s Finding of Moses that there’s a broader market for the artist’s work than fans of 19th Century painting. Gulf State and Asian buyers seem to be equally involved:
A masterpiece by Victorian artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema set another incredible price at Sotheby’s New York today in the sale of 19th Century European Art. Two determined phone bidders held a steady competition for The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC for over eight minutes, driving the final price to a remarkable $29,202,500–nearly six times the pre-sale high estimate of $5 million. This marks the highest auction price of the week in New York, and follows the $35.9 million record for the artist established at Sotheby’s last November by The Finding of Moses.
In The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC, Alma-Tadema depicts one of the most storied moments in Roman-Egyptian history. Rather than using translations of ancient texts as source material, the artist instead drew inspiration for his composition from William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, which was regularly staged in London’s theaters at the time. Alma-Tadema chooses to depict a subtle and sensitive moment from a story filled with high-drama: the sensual memory of Antony’s first meeting with Cleopatra in Tarsus, proof that the Egyptian Queen was his true love.