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On Wednesday, Sotheby’s held its old masters sale, which generated $4.4 million with buyer’s premium across 119 lots. Hammering at $3.5 million, it landed 16% below pre-sale low expectation of $4.1 million and realized a sell-through rate of 70 percent.
14 percent of lots achieved a price above the high estimate, 31 percent sold within their estimate ranges and 24 percent failed to reach their low bar. 21 lots failed to find buyers.
The top lot of the sale was Girogio di Giovanni’s 16th century painting Flight of Cloelia, a Roman war story, which sold for $477,800 with buyer’s premium, making two times the low estimate of $200,000. Originally in the collection of Italian cardinal and military official Antonio Barberini, the work came to sale after being held in a private collection since 1996. Dutch painter Jacon Jordaen’s Christ Triumphant among the nine pentinents, also from the 16th century, sold for $441,000, two times the estimate of $200,000.
Venetian painter Sebastiano Ricci’s The Last Supper sold for $378,000, hammering above the high estimate of $70,000 and ultimately making $138,600 with buyer’s fees. That work last sold at Christie’s London in 1956. 18th century Italian painter, Giovanni Battista Cipriani’s Boreas and Oreithyia, a scene from Greek mythology, sold for $352,800 against an estimate of $200,000. The work also has an impressive backstory; it was exhibited in 1776 at the Royal Academy in London, and later entered the collection of British ambassador George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Oxford.
Elsewhere in the sale, Mannerist Italian painter Scarsellino’s 16th century work, Abduction of Persephone, sold for $340,000, hammering at the high end of the estimate range. Antwerp old master Cornelis Schut’s Abduction of Europa sold for $352,800, making four times the estimate of $80,000.
Italian 17th century painter Antonio Joli’s Samson Destroying the Philistine Temple of Dagan from Picasso scholar John Richardson’s collection hammered at its low estimate of $300,000, selling for $375,000 total. A comparable by the artist sold at Sotheby’s in December in 2001 sold for £828,500 ($1.188 million). A cassone panel by Apollonio di Giovanni, depicting the return of Roman solider Marcus Furius Camillus’s from successful battles, sold for $252,000. Coming to the market with a dramatic backstory, the work was restituted to members of the Rothschild family in 1946, after its recovery by the Monuments Men in Bavaria during WWII. It last sold at Sotheby’s in January 2014 for $701,000 from another private collection. This sale marks a 64 percent drop in value in just six years since its last sale.
Taddeo di Bartolo’s four panel depiction of Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Lawrence, Dominic and Julian sold for $126,000, only a 12 percent increase in value since its last sale in 1999 at Christie’s when it was deaccessioned from the Denver Museum of Art and made $112,500.
Amid financial pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the secondary market is seeing an influx of museum deaccessions this fall. In this sale, the San Diego Museum of Art sold Bernardo Bellotto’s Architectural capriccio to raise money for its acquisition fund. The work failed to find a buyer at an estimate of $700,000 to $900,000, a disappointing outcome for the institution.
A painting by Angelo Caroselli featuring a young armored man, who is potentially Saint George sold for $138,600, making 1.7 times the low estimate of $80,000. The work was from the estate of Kenneth Donahue, the second director of the Los Angeles Museum of Art, who owned the painting for five decades. Despite the solid provenance, two other works from Donahue’s collection offered in the auction, together valued between $15,000 and $150,000, failed to sell.