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:

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

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.

The week of sales began with the two-day sale of Property from the Estate of Giancarlo Baroni [Sale N08857], which brought a strong total of $13,859,634, above pre-sale expectations of $8.4–12.1 million. Bidders from around the globe filled the salesroom and participated by phone and via the internet, actively pursuing works from the renowned Old Master connoisseur, collector and dealer’s collection, which ranged from fifteenth-century gold ground paintings to works by El Greco, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Bernardo Bellotto, and Giovanni Boldini, among others. The sale was led by Eva Gonzalès’s La Demoiselle d’honneur, which achieved $2,546,500, more than four times its pre-sale high estimate of $600,000, and a new record for the artist at auction. The evening session alone brought in $11.6 million, well above the pre-sale high estimate of $9.4 million, with over 84% of lots sold. An outstanding price was achieved for lot 1, The Madonna and Child Resting at a Parapet by the Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, which was sought after by several bidders, finally selling for $842,500, nearly eight times the high estimate of $120,000. Other highlights included Bernardo Bellotto’s Venice, a view of the Molo, looking west, with the Palazzo Ducale and south side of the Piazzetta which brought a strong price of $1,258,500. Two additional auction records were achieved today for a work on paper by Bernardo Strozzi and Gian Paolo Panini. View of the Courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese with the Statue of Hercules, seen from behind and through an archway, and several figures by Gian Paolo Panini fetched $362,500 (est. $100-150,000) while The Penitent Magdalene Holding a Crucifix Resting on a Skull by Bernardo Strozzi sold for $152,500.

The Old Master Drawings sale on 30 January 2013 [Sale N08951] offered works from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries by French, Italian, and Dutch artists and totaled $2,619,251. The sale was led by William Blake’s The Gambols of Ghosts according with their Affections previous to the Final Judgement, one of nineteen watercolors by him that were rediscovered in 2001 in a small bookshop in Glasgow, which sold for $722,500, above its pre-sale high estimate. An artist record for Benedetto Luti was achieved with the sale of Allegory of the Elevation of Cardinal Deacon Oddone Colonna to the Papal Chair as Pope Martin V, bringing in $302,500, while a record for a work on paper by Jan van Huysum was realized with the rare Roses and Other Flowers in an Open-weave Basket selling for $122,500.

A late sixteenth-century Safavid Carpet sold for $1,930,500, more than double its pre-sale high estimate, during the Masterworks sale today, which brought in a total of $5,374,000, within the pre-sale estimates of $5.2-8 million. A further highlight of the sale was the Morgan Aldobrandini Tazza, which fetched $1,426,500, exceeding the estimates of $400,000-$800,000. A magnificent Renaissance Colombian Emerald-set gold jewel recovered from the shipwrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha from the early seventeenth century brought in $410,500, above the high estimate of $250,000.

*Pre-sale estimates for sales between 29 January and 1 February 2013 are $89-131 million.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: