At Auction | Recapping Old Masters at Sotheby’s

Posted in Art Market by Editor on February 7, 2013

As Nord Wennerstrom notes at Nord on Art, while it was a fine week for Batoni and Fragonard, “Goya tanked,” and nearly 50 of 104 lots failed to sell at the auction of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture. The Sotheby’s press release (1 February 2013), understandably, stresses only the successes:

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Sotheby’s Old Masters Week Sales Bring More Than $80 Million

Important Old Master Paintings & Sculpture sale highlighted by an $11 million record-setting work by Batoni and a painting by French Rococo master Fragonard sold to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Sotheby’s Sale N08952, Lot 73 — Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Susanna and the Elders. Signed lower left on wall P.B. 1751.
It sold for $11,394,500.

Sotheby’s annual Old Masters Week auctions in New York brought a total of $80,083,199* as of 1 February 2013. Thursday and Friday’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture [Sale N08952] totaled $58,230,315, highlighted by an exceptional work by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni from 1751, Susanna and the Elders, which exceeded the pre-sale estimate of $6-9 million. Five bidders battled for this major work, and two determined phone bidders drove the final price to $11,394,500, a record for the artist at auction. Ten bidders fought for an unrecorded, recently discovered Hans Memling devotional panel, Christ Blessing, which realized $4,114,500, also a record for the artist at auction (est. $1-1.5 million). The panel, which has been in the same New England collection for over 150 years, was
completely unknown to scholars and collectors alike before it
was discovered earlier this year.


Sotheby’s Sale N08952, Lot 84 — Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Goddess Aurora Triumphing over Night, ca. 1755-56. Selling for $3,834,500, it was acquired by the MFA in Boston.

George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Worldwide, and Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department in New York, commented: “We were delighted to see that works by major hands like Batoni, Fragonard, and Memling sold incredibly well, and collectors understand that these rare works do not come to the market often. There was tremendous international bidding throughout the week, particularly from Russian collectors, who are extremely interested in French and Italian eighteenth-century work. There was international underbidding for French Rococo master Fragonard’s The Goddess Aurora Triumphing over Night; however, we’re pleased to announce that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the eventual winner of this wonderful work.”


Sotheby’s Sale N08952, Lot 91 — François Boucher, Sleeping Bacchantes Surprised by Satyrs, 1760.
It sold for $2,098,500.

Heidelberg with a Rainbow, commissioned from Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1840, sold for $4,562,500, while The Goddess Aurora Triumphing over Night by Jean-Honoré Fragonard surpassed its estimate of $1.8/2.5 million, realizing $3,834,500, and was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. An additional record for an artist at auction was made for The Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara with Saint Ursula Protecting the Eleven Thousand Virgins with Her Cloak, selling for $3,050,500, above the high estimate of $2.5 million. A further highlight was Claude-Joseph Vernet’s Mediterranean Harbor at Sunset with the artist, his daughter Emilie Chalgrin, his son Carle Vernet, his daughter-inlaw, Fanny Moreau, and his servant Saint-Jean, on a pier, a lighthouse and a natural arch beyond which fetched $2,546,500, well within estimate. During this sale, Sotheby’s set seven artist records at auction including ones for François Boucher, whose Sleeping Bacchantes Surprised by Satyrs sold for $2,098,500, Gerard van Spaendonck, whose Still life of roses, hyacinth, wallflower and other flowers in a lapis lazuli vase; Still life of narcissus, hyacinth and other flowers in a brown porphyry vase brought $1,650,500, Pietro Longhi whose The Elephant achieved $1,314,500, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze, whose The Hermit, or the Distributor of Rosaries brought $1,082,500.

Sixteen lots from The Metropolitan Museum of Art sold for the Acquisitions Fund achieved strong results, totalling $2.4 million; in particular Portrait of a Young Girl, possibly Clara Serena Rubens by a Follower of Peter Paul Rubens, which sold for 20 times its pre-sale high estimate of $30,000, realizing $626,500. (more…)

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