Perception often generates reality in the art market. Rumors over the past year that the Al-Thanis of Qatar purchased the last privately held version of Cezanne’s Card Players for $250 million generated enough interest in the works to smoke out a lost watercolor study for the work, according to Carol Vogel, which will be auctioned at Christie’s in May with an estimate of between $15 and $20 million:
Cézanne also made seven known drawings and watercolors as studies for the paintings. And “A Card Player,” as the one coming up for sale at Christie’s is called, belonged to Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald, a prominent collector who died in September. Dr. Eichenwald, a pioneer in research on pediatric infectious diseases, inherited the watercolor from his father, Ernst, who is thought by Christie’s experts to have bought it from a Berlin gallery around 1930. When the Eichenwald family fled Germany and the Nazis in 1936, they took “A Card Player,” along with works by Daumier and other 19th-century artists, to New York. Now Heinz Eichenwald’s widow, Linda, is selling the work.
In 2010 a critically praised exhibition called “Cézanne’s Card Players” opened at the Courtauld Gallery in London before traveling to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan last year. This watercolor was not included in the show, and the catalog listed it only as “whereabouts unknown.”
Interestingly, Vogel goes out of her way to suggest the Embiricos painting of The Card Players might not have been sold to Qatar presenting alternate theories of Philip Niarchos and nameless Russian Billionaires.
[Update: Josh Baer, who was the first to report the possible sale of The Card Players last Summer, thinks it more likely that that the work stayed in Switzerland, changing hands without an intermediary.]
That only serves to underscore the fact that the study will sell on the generally accepted story that the painting was valued at $250 million whether there was a transaction at that level or not.
A Cézanne Resurfaces, Shedding Light on a Series (Arts Beat/New York Times)