Victorian & British Impressionist
On the very last day of May the action started in London with a Victorian & British Impressionist Art sale. Taking the top slot here was a signature image by Dante Gabriel Rossetti that eclipsed its £1-£1.5M estimate to sell for £2.17M ($3.4M). Coming in second was Leighton’s Bacchante at £1.16M ($1.8M — falling short of its £1.2-£1.8M est.) and in third was Alma-Tadema’s In the Rose Garden which beat its £400-£600K estimate when it made £960K ($1.5M). In addition, there were a number of paintings by Seago that did remarkably well – 13 in total and all sold within, or well above, their estimates.
Among the more notable misses were Richmond’s Sarpedon…. (est. £200-£300K); Godward’s His Birthday Gift (est. £80-£120K); Osborne’s A Grey Morning in a Breton Farmyard (est. £200-£300K); Foster’s A Market Day on the Giudecca, Venice (est. £120-£180K) and a couple of Grimshaws. When the sale ended, of the 107 works offered 64 sold (59.8%) and the total take was £7.9M ($12.3M) which beat the low end of their estimate (£6.5M).
We then jumped back to NYC for two Old Master sales … which overall were not too impressive. First up was Sotheby’s whose top lot was The Pseudo Dalmasio Degli Scannabecchi’s Madonna & Child which made $795K (est. $250-$350K); this was followed by Colantonio’s Blessed Leonard of Assisi which brought $555K (est. $60-$80K) and then Van Brussel’s Still Life of Flowers made $375K (est. 150-$200K). Among the works that failed were a pair of Domenichini’s (est. $400-$600K) and a d’Hondecoeter (est. $300-$400K).
When this sale ended, of the 114 works in the catalog, only 63 sold (55%) and the total take was $5.2M … not very good.
The next day Christie’s presented their sale and I am sure that after the competition’s experience they were more than a little worried (I actually sat through this sale since my daughter is interning with the Old Master & 19th century departments this summer and she assisted with the setup of the sale). Top lot here was a restituted Romanino painting of Christ Carrying the Cross which brought $4.6M (est. $2.5-$3.5M). This was followed by a beautiful pair of Robert paintings that were being sold by the Met which made $1.9M (est. $800-$1.2M) and in third was another Met work by Brueghel at $687K (est. $200-$300K).
By the end, of the 99 works offered 60 (60.6%) had found new owners – not the best, but the total take was $12.6M … about 2 ½ times that of Sotheby’s.
The following week we were back in London for the European Painting sales … once upon a time these sales were made up of strictly 19th century works, but now they have incorporated some modern and contemporary works (many of which were for the Greek market). Our period always seems to get diluted in one way or another! Anyway, on with the show.
On the 11th, Sotheby’s offered their European Painting sale and there were a few interesting results here. Taking the top position was Hammershoi’s Ida Reading a Letter which blew past its 500-700K estimate to sell for £1.7M ($2.67M) – an auction record for the artist and for any Danish work of art at auction. And as for the balance of the top 5, they were all works by Hammershoi – he was the flavor of the day and all easily beat, or crushed, their estimates.
Now you might think … not bad, must have been a very strong sale – well, that was not the case. Yes, the Hammershoi’s did amazingly well … in all these 5 lots brought in £4.3M; however, you will soon see that was a large percentage of the sales total. In addition, there were some big misses including: Bocklin’s Odysseus und Polyphemus (est. £800-£1.2M) which I really did not like; Mir’s Serra de Tramontana, Mallorca (est. £200-£300K); Springer’s The Wijdstraat… (est. £100-£150K); Koekkoek’s A Summer Landscape… (est. £100-£150K); Schelfhout’s Winter Landscape…(est. £100-£150K) and of the 34 Greek works, only 13 sold – hum, wonder why that happened?
When the sale was over, of the 144 works offered only 70 sold (48.6%) … a very low number … and the total take was £6.5M ($10.15M); so even with the buyer’s premium added in they fell short of their presale estimate of £6.8M – £9.98M. Look, if it weren’t for the serious action on the Hammershoi’s, this sale would have been a disaster … but like I always say: what a difference a painting or two can make.
The next day Christie’s offered their 19th century European Art sale which, unlike the competition, only included 19th century paintings – YES!
Taking top honors in the sale was Sorolla’s Pescadores… which brought £938K against an estimate of £500-£800K. In addition, his Pescador de quisquillas… took second place with £481K (est. £400-£600K) and in third we found a Delacroix sketch at £361K (est. £300-£500K).
Among the works that did not pass muster were: Sorolla’s A la Orilla del Mar (est. £700-£1M); Zuloaga’s Anita Ramirez in Yellow (est. £250-£350K); Robert’s Procession before the Tombs of the Caliphs… (est. £300-£500K); Boldini’s Figura di donna distesa (est. £120-£180K) – a rather confusing work; and Zandomeneghi’s Femme en bleu qui lit (est. £150-£250K).
At the end of the day, of the 98 works offered 51 sold (52% – a little better than the competition) and the total take was £5.01M ($7.8M) while the low end of their range was £6.7M – so a bit short.
Once again, the results from these sales prove that the market is still not ready to absorb all the material being thrown at it. I am pleased that the salerooms have reduced the size of their sales, now it is time to reduce the number of sales. I still do not see why, at this point, they need individual Victorian and 19th century sales. The New York sales include all that material in one sale; so should the London sales – at least until the lower end of the market is back in full swing.