If you want an concise, authoritative and refreshingly honest take on the Old Master market, you can do no better than looking at this post by Bendor Grosvenor on his site, Art History News. The big news, still under reported, is that Christie’s has pulled off a very strong series of Old Master sales between their Defining British Art sale at the end of last month and last week’s Old Master sale featuring works from the Beit Collection which had been originally scheduled to be sold last year.
Here’s Grosvenor on Christie’s success:
Christie’s success marks something of a turnaround in their OMP fortunes – for the last few years they have lagged behind Sotheby’s. […] The main story of the week was obviously the Rubens of Lot and his Daughters, which made an impressive £44.8m against an estimate of £20m-£30m. […] Another Rubens from the Beit collection, a sketch for Venus Supplicating Jupiter, sold for £1.3m.
Another impressive price at Christie’s was the rare complete set of all Four Seasons by Breughel the Younger, which made £6.4m (est. £3m-£5m). This and the £506k (est. £300k-£500k) for yet another version of The Payment of the Tithes showed that the Breughel the Younger market seems to be as strong as ever. I speculated a while ago that a decline of Russian bidders might affect this market, but it seems I am wrong, and someone in the know about these things assures me I am. The only Van Dyck to sell last week did well enough, the previously unknown Portrait of a Lady making £170k, over its estimate of £100k-£150k. A pair of Bellottos in good state made £3.5m (est.£2m-£3m). A William Larkin portrait of lady (below) made an encouraging (for British art lovers) £266k against an estimate of £40k-£60k. This is the sort of Old Master picture which increasingly fits contemporary taste, with its naivety and colouring, and the fact that it’s on panel. Some years ago it would most likely have been a Day Sale kind of picture.
London Old Master sales (post-sale) (Art History News)