Bonhams has sold the highest priced Old Master painting this year with one of Fragonard’s fantasy portraits. Only 15 of those exist with two others remaining private hands:
A major work by the 18th century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Portrait of François-Henri d’Harcourt, sold for £17,106,50 this evening (5 December) setting a world record price for the artist at auction. (The previous record was £5,300,000 for a painting sold in London in 1999).
The painting was the leading work in the sale of paintings and sculpture from the renowned collection of the German philanthropist, the late Dr Gustav Rau which raised more than £19 million. The proceeds will be used to benefit the Foundation of the German Committee for UNICEF – for the children of the world
Fragonard’s fantasy portraits – often depicting friends and acquaintances – were painted quickly with bold, fluid brush work which anticipated the Impressionists in bravura and technique. This style was referred to by some contemporaries as the artist’s, ‘swordplay of the brush’. The Portrait of François-Henri d’Harcourt is unusual among Fragonard’s fantasy portraits because the subject is identified. Many of the other portraits are personifications of the arts rather than representations of named individuals.
Also in the sale was a 15th century depiction of the Crucifixion by an unknown German artist sold for £1,082,500 ‘Le grand noyer à l’Hermitage’ by Camille Pissarro was sold for £314,500 against an estimate of £200,000-300,000.