Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art in N.Y. Total $82.5 M

NEW YORK.- Sotheby’s two-day sale of Old Master Paintings and European Works of Art in New York brought a total of $82.5 million (est. $68.3/99.7 million*). The top selling lot was a masterpiece by the German Medieval sculptor, Tilman Riemenschneider, a rare and important Franconian Limewood figure of Saint Catherine, circa 1505, which sold for $6,313,000, a record for the artist at auction. The series of auctions also included Old Master Drawings, bringing the grand total for the week to $91.7 million (est. $75.8/109.2 million). auction records were established for Tilman Riemenschneider, Donatello, Lelio Orsi and Fra Bartolommeo, among others.

George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide said, “These results are truly impressive. Very strong prices were achieved for great works of art, with 10 works selling for over $2 million and 17 for more than $1 million. The buoyancy of the market is further underlined when these results are compared to the sales held one year ago. They are virtually comparable, with the difference in the total explained by the sale of one painting.1 Given the current uncertainty in the stock market and the economy, these sales were being looked at carefully. The results show that the market for Old Master paintings is extremely healthy.”

Sculpture captured the two highest prices of the two-day sale. A new auction record was achieved for Tilman Riemenschneider when the German master’s rare and important Franconian Limewood figure of Saint Catherine, circa 1505, sold for $6,313,000 (est. $4/6 million). Three bidders competed for the masterpiece before it finally sold to an anonymous bidder on the phone. That price eclipsed the previous record for the artist at auction set at Sotheby’s New York in January 2001.

An auction record was also established for Donatello when his exceptionally rare gilt and painted terracotta relief of the Madonna and Child was sought-after by five different bidders. The winning bid of $5,641,000, which surpassed the pre-sale estimate of $2/4 million, was placed by a client on the telephone who wishes to remain anonymous.

Two works by Lucas Cranach the Elder were among the top ten lots of the sale. Portrait of a Young Lady Holding a Bunch of Grapes, which depicts an archetype of female beauty, dressed in the height of extravagant German fashion, brought $5,081,000, above a high estimate of $2 million. The artist’s Phyllis and Aristotle, from 1530, also exceeded expectations selling for $4,073,000, above a pre-sale estimate of $2.5/3.5 million.

A rediscovered work by Georges de la Tour, Saint James the Great, sparked competitive bidding, commanding a final sale price of $3,223,000. Part of a group of thirteen canvases, representing the Blessing Christ and the Twelve Apostles, known as the Albi series, which have been rediscovered over the past decades, the work had been estimated to sell for $1.5/2 million.