At Sotheby’s Amsterdam two important, newly discovered still lifes by the much sought-after Dutch artist, Adriaen Coorte, were both the subject of long and spirited bidding battles and the two paintings brought a combined total of €3,097,500 (£2,827,219), far in excess of pre-sale expectations.
Six bidders competed for Still life of strawberries in an earthenware bowl and after an extending bidding battle it sold for €1,520,750 (£1,388,053), more than ten times its pre-sale high estimate of €100,000 to 150,000 and a new auction record for the artist by a considerable margin. Moments later, this new auction record was then broken again when the second of the two still lifes, Still life of a peach and two apricots, attracted considerable interest and achieved the outstanding price of €1,576,750 (£1,439,166), against an estimate of €100,000 to 150,000. Five bidders – who were on the telephone and in the saleroom – all battled it out for this work. Both paintings were acquired by the same Private European Collector after considerable competition from around the world. The price achieved for Still life of a peach and two apricots represents the highest price for a painting sold in The Netherlands in 2009.
The two paintings had only recently re-emerged on to the market having been hidden away in a Dutch family collection for more than a century. The owner found them in a cupboard, and curious to see if they had any value, called Martine Lambrechtsen of Sotheby’s in Amsterdam, and described them to her. Realising their likely importance, Martine immediately made an appointment to go and see the works and was, within a few hours of receiving the call, able to confirm that they were indeed masterpieces by one of Holland’s most intriguing Masters. They were then entered in to today’s sale of Old Master Paintings at Sotheby’s Amsterdam.
Commenting on today’s sale, Martine Lambrechtsen, the Old Master Paintings Specialist at Sotheby’s Amsterdam who discovered the paintings, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the extraordinary prices achieved today for these two exceptional paintings by Adriaen Coorte and the new auction record that we’ve established for the artist. When I first saw the paintings I immediately recognised what they were and the discovery that they represented and it has been wonderful to see them so appreciated by the international market today. They were the talk – and undoubted highlight – of the pre-sale exhibition and offered everything that buyers are currently looking for. They are quintessential examples of the artist’s work, are in exemplary condition and also have a remarkable story to tell.”
George Gordon, Co-Chairman of Old Master Paintings, Sotheby’s Worldwide and also the auctioneer for the sale, said: “It has been a real pleasure to bring these two paintings to auction and to sell them so successfully in their homeland. With the remarkable results we achieved for the Coortes today, Sotheby’s holds the three top prices for any works of art sold in The Netherlands and continues its long-established practice of selling high value Old Masters in The Netherlands. Works by Adriaen Coorte have a sheer simplicity that is markedly different to the opulence and profusion of so many other artists who were active in the Northern Netherlands in the 17th century. There is nothing else quite like them in Dutch art.”
Works by Adriaen Coorte – a painter of outstanding quality and originality – are rare to the market, and few museums possess his works. At the time of the major Adriaen Coorte exhibition in the Mauritshuis in Den Haag last year, only 64 paintings were known of him, to which these two pictures are now major additions. The two paintings are quintessential examples of Coorte’s simple and distinctive style and they come to auction in fine, untouched condition. One is dated 1692 and the other is probably slightly later, and like the majority of Coorte’s work – and rather unusually in Dutch art – they were painted on paper and later glued to panel. The 1692 painting is the artist’s earliest known dated work on paper.
Of all the still life painters of the Dutch Golden Age, Coorte is the most enigmatic, as well as one of the most loved by modern collectors. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the early part of the 18th century he seems to have worked in complete isolation in the city of Middelburg in Zeeland, the same region where the Dutch family who discovered the painting originates from. His still lifes are nearly all very simple compositions of produce from a typical garden (fruits, vegetables and nuts etc.) and always strictly according to season.
Going forward, Sotheby’s Amsterdam will hold two sales of Old Master Paintings every year – the first in May and the second in December.
Image: Adriaen Coorte (circa 1665 – after 1707), “Still Life of Strawberries in an Earthenware Bowl”. Estimate: €100,000 to 150,000. Sold for: €1,520,750 (£1,388,053). Photo: Sotheby’s