The Toulouse Caravaggio gets sold before the auction; José Mugrabi's buying at Christie's is telling us something about the market
This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.)
We Might Not Have Seen the Last of That Caravaggio
The New York Times’s Scott Reyburn moves the ball forward on the Toulouse auction of Caravaggio’s Judith and Holofernes which was cancelled yesterday in favor of a private deal with the owners who discovered the work in their attic.
The obvious question is whether the sale was a sign of market strength (a big, impatient bid) or a sign of weakness (the sellers took the offer knowing there were few other serious bidders.) Reyburn spoke to Eric Turquin, the Old Masters expert who drove the incomplete re-attribution:
- “They did not exactly get cold feet, but they decided it was good for them,” said Mr. Turquin. When the painting was shown in London in February, Mr. Turquin had said it would be auctioned without a reserve price, meaning it could, potentially, have sold for a far lower figure.Immediately after the offer was made on Monday, “three or four” other prospective buyers were asked if they were prepared to bid to a higher level, Mr. Turquin said, but no firm commitments were made and the auction was canceled. “Over €30 million is such a height that the oxygen is rare,” Mr. Turquin added.
Those seem pretty clear signals that the work sold for a very large amount of money but not anywhere near the nine-figure sum the auction house was predicting.
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