By the beginning of July it was time for the Old Master sales and there was a great deal of hype surrounding them. A number of works by important artists were hitting the blocks (Constable, Rembrandt, van de Velde, Brueghel, etc.) and all eyes were peeled on them.
First up was Christie’s and the most talked about work was being offered by them – John Constable’s The Lock. There was a great deal of controversy regarding its sale and the work carried a third party guarantee (in other words someone basically bought the work before the sale and then would benefit from any upside). Well, on that day the painting sold at the reserve and the Russian guarantor was now the owner at £22.44M ($35.2M – est. £20-£25M) – so we cannot chalk that up as a true ‘auction’ sale, but it sold and made the highest price for the day. In second came Rembrandt’s small A Man in a Gorget and Cap at £8.44M ($13.2M – est. £8-£12M – bought on the reserve by an Asian) and in third was Lorenzetti’s Christ between Sts. Peter & Paul at £5.1M ($7.97M – est. £1-£1.5M).
When the evening’s action ended, of the 64 works offered 54 sold for a total take of £85M ($133.5M – presale est. was £61.8-£88.3M – so they were well within the range). The top 10 works brought in just over £59M (92.8M) or about 70% of the total sale.
The next day they offered the general merchandise and the top lot here was catalogued as Follower of da Vinci and carried a £50-£70K est. — it sold for 937K ($1.47M); it was also interesting to note that 9 of the top ten works beat their estimate. When the day was done, of the 121 works offered 71 sold (59% – not very strong) and the total take was £4.44M ($6.96M – est. range was £3.7-£5.5M – so they made the numbers).
That evening Sotheby’s presented their offerings and taking the number one slot was Van de Velde’s The Surrender of the Royal Prince… which carried a £1.5-£2M est. and sold for £5.3M ($8.32M) – not bad. In second was Brueghel’s The Battle between Carnival and Lent that made £4.5M ($7.09M – est. £4-£6M) and in third was Cranach’s The Feilitzsch Altarpiece at £4.3M ($6.74M – est. £4-£6M) – the last two only making their estimates with the buyer’s premium.
When this sale ended, of the 43 works offered 29 sold (67.4% — a bit better than the competition) and the total take was £32.2M ($50.6M – presale est. £26.7-£40.4M).
The following day came the last of the painting sales and the top three works here were a piece attributed to Dirck Dircksz. Van Santvoort at £409K ($639K – est. £80-£120K); another by Dirck Dircksz. Van Santvoort at £289K ($452K – est. £60-£80K) and a William Larkin at £289K ($452K – est. £40-£60K). I have to guess that the buyer of the attributed work believes it is the real thing!
In the end, this sale saw 218 works offered and 124 sold (56.6%) for a total take of £6.2M ($9.6M). I also need to add that both salerooms offered a selection of works on paper: Sotheby’s brought in £6.9M ($10.8M) and Christie’s added £4.16M ($6.5M).
So, for the week Christie’s brought in £93.6M ($146.9M) and Sotheby’s generated £45.3M ($71.1M); and when combined that adds another £139M ($218M) to the London totals (about $918M) — still a little shy of the $1 Billion mark – but what is a few million among friends!?