- “It was a great sale. There’s life out there”, says New York dealer Robert Simon
- As Munich dealer Martin Graessle sums it up: “It is easier today to sell a work for $1m than one for $10,000.”
- Some prices, particularly for drawings, reached impressive levels.
- “We had really deep interest from all over the world. That was not always the case in recent years”, says Christopher Apostle, the head of Sotheby’s Old Master paintings department. “Also, we had new bidders and younger bidders”.
The reactions to last week’s sale of Old Masters works primarily at Sotheby’s recorded by Barbara Kutscher in The Art Newspaper were hopeful. Buyers seemed to pursue works in unexpected places, especially in the drawings market where Christie’s also held a sale. As Kutscher points out, the collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet reached $16.8m, in part because of the strong participation of collectors:
The top lot—an extremely rare, heavily inked drawing of a landscape around Shoreham, Kent, by Samuel Palmer (around 1831)—was claimed by a New York collector, briefly challenged by the London dealer Stephen Ongpin, for a high $2m, or $2.4m with fees. The same buyer also won fiercely contested graphite and pencil drawings by Ingrès and Picasso. An exquisite brush drawing by Goya, showing an old woman hunched over a basket full of eggs, will make its way into a European private collection for $2.1m.
That strong performance contributed to the overall total of $82.5m which was twice the total of the previous year which came in at $41.9m. Here are some of the strong performances from Sotheby’s various sales:
Master Paintings & Sculpture Day Sale
The auction was led by Jacopo Zucchi’s 16th-century Portrait Of A Young Lady In An Embroidered Dress And Pearls, which sold for $567,000 – more than four times its pre-sale high estimate (estimate $80/120,000). Though the identity of the woman remains unknown, it is clear from
her lavish costume and elegant pose that she is a member of the Florentine Medici court. The painting once belonged to the celebrated New York connoisseur Thomas Jefferson Bryan (1802- 1870), and later formed part of the collection of the New York Historical Society upon his death in 1870.
Otto Naumann Sale Equals $6.2m
The sale established new auction records for eight artists, including benchmark prices for James Drummond, Denys Calvaert and Giovanni Bilivert. Bilivert’s small-scale painting on copper Venus, Cupid and Pan led the sale, achieving $879,000 (right, estimate $300/500,000).
Collection of Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann = $5.2
The collection totaled $1.5 million – nearly double its high estimate – and was led by Karel van Mander the Elder’s record-breaking The Repentance of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, a beautifully-preserved example of late 16th-century Dutch Mannerist draughtsmanship that sold for $387,000 (left, estimate $60/80,000). The sale achieved six new artist records plus a further 13 medium records (for works on paper).
an impressive pair of Venetian views by Canaletto, which sold for $4.2 million (estimate $3/4 million). Most likely completed in England in the 1740s, the pair offers waterfront views of two of the most recognizable façades in La Serenissima: the Church of the Redentore and the Prisons of San Marco. A monumental painting by leading Italian Renaissance master Titian and his workshop sold to an online bidder for $2.2 million (estimate $2/3 million). One of only two known versions of the subject by the artist, Saint Margaret was first recorded in the royal collection of King Charles I (1600-1649)
Thirteen works on offer from the extraordinary private collection of J.E. Safra together brought $8.4 million, led by a pair of still-life paintings from the pioneering female painter Fede Galizia. Sold for $2.1 million, the present pair is a testament to the artist’s sensitive approach to subject matter and acute eye for detail (estimate $2/3 million).
A rare and striking portrait of Cristoforo Segni, Maggiordomo to Pope Innocent X, painted and signed by both iconic Spanish artist Velázquez (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez) and Italian painter Pietro Martire Neri, fetched $4.1 million (estimate $3/4 million). Painted around 1650, during Velázquez’s second trip to Rome, the work is one of a series of portraits painted for the Court of Pope Innocent X on the occasion of his Jubilee, the most famous being Portrait of Innocent X (1650, Galleria Doria Pamphilij). Having remained hidden in the present collection since the mid-20th century, the painting was recently featured in an exhibition dedicated to Velázquez at the Grand Palais, Paris in 2015.
Competition for works by the great German master Lucas Cranach the Elder drove multiple top prices. One of the artist’s most sensual and beautiful versions of Lucretia – a favorite subject of the artist – fetched $2.9 million (left, estimate $2/3 million). Painted circa 1510-13, it is a supreme example of the type of erotic historical painting that was produced for private patrons – ironically right in the geographic and ideological heart of the Reformation. The first portrait of the great reformer Martin Luther, the German scholar and priest whose criticisms of the Catholic church led to the seismic theological shift which changed the political and religious landscape of Europe forever, commanded $2.3 million (estimate $800,000/1.2 million). Painted in Wittenberg around 1520, the portrait shows Luther during one of the most important, and dangerous, 18 months of his life, shortly before his excommunication by the Pope and his summons by the Emperor Charles V to defend his actions at the Diet of Worms in 1521.
Emerging from a private family collection for the first time in nearly 130 years, Nicolas Lancret’s charming interior scene L’Hiver (Winter) – from his celebrated Four Season series – sold for $2.7 million (estimate $1.5/2 million). Known only from a black and white engraving, the early-18th century painting has remained in the same collection since 1889 and is one of the most important discoveries of Lancret’s work in recent history.
Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Prince Willem II of Orange as a Young Boy, with a Dog led Sotheby’s offering of Flemish works, selling for $2.4 million (estimate $2/3 million). Two versions of this charming painting by Van Dyck are recorded in period sources – one painted for the parents of Prince Willem II, and another version made for King Charles I of England. Recent cleaning of the present work and its subsequent public exhibition at the Rubenshuis Museum in Antwerp has led scholars to believe that this painting of the five-year-old Prince is almost certainly the recorded version painted for King Charles I.
Old Masters market shows some life in New York auctions (The Art Newspaper)