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Thursday's long-awaited Old Masters sale at Sotheby’s New York had been billed as potentially being the biggest sale of its kind ever with a pre-sale estimate, not including buyers’ premium, of $121.9 million–$142.8 million. But after three lots were withdrawn, including a highly-rated $20 million–$30 million Rembrandt, that estimate was reduced to $100 million–$110 million.
Nonetheless, the sale continued Sotheby’s New York winter Old Master sales steady upward trajectory, arguably at the expense of the London equivalents. Since 2017, totals from these sales have risen from $35.8 million to $69.7 million last year. Today’s sale—the first half of a two-part auction—totaled $114.5 million alone. The London winter Old Master sales (which play second fiddle to their higher-value summer auctions) show a reverse momentum, coming in at £36.5 million in 2018, £19.2 million in 2019, and £11.8 million in 2020.
The record to beat today was £85 million ($135 million including premium), set by Christie’s in London in July 2012, when 15 works sold for over £1 million ($1.4 million), including John Constable’s The Lock, which sold for £22 million ($30 million). Today’s sale fell somewhat short of that.
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