Sotheby’s Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture Sale Brings $61.6 Million

Sotheby’s New York 2010 Old Masters Week totaled $74,181,071 (£45,992,356, €53,148,582), nearly topping the presale series estimate of $52.5/75.5 million. Included in the offerings were Important Old Master Paintings Including Sculpture, Important European Terracotta and Bronze Sculpture from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, Old Master Drawings and Old Master & 19th Century European Art.

Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture
The week was led by the spectacular results for Thursday’s sale of Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture, which brought $61,599,250 (£37,911,897) (¤44,000,407), nearly reaching the high estimate of $63 million. Twelve lots sold for more than $1 million, and almost 60% of the works sold brought prices above the high estimate.

George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide said, “Immediately following our sale last January, I knew that our approach to putting together future auctions was going to have to change to fit the environment in which we were living. We were incredibly stringent as we collected property for both our June 2009 sale and the current sale. Not only did we focus on presenting the best quality, but we worked with consignors to help them understand that attractive estimates are what this market desires. The results of this week’s sales prove that thesis and we are thrilled with the results.”

The morning session began with energy as the first lot of the sale, Borghese di Piero’s The Visitation jumped to $170,500 against an estimate of $40/60,000. Francesco di Vannuccio’s The Madonna and Child Reliquary Press Release New York For Immediate Release followed shortly thereafter, with as many as four clients bidding and driving the price to $1,022,500 (est. $300/500,000).

The sale’s top price of $7,250,500 was garnered by Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s Two Studies of a Bearded Man (est. $5/7 million). The picture was painted by the young Sir Anthony Van Dyck when he was still in Rubens’s studio and shows how fully the artist absorbed the lessons of his master, as well as how soon he had begun to assert his own style.

Two artist records were set during Thursday’s sale. An artist record** was set for the monumental masterpiece Jupiter and Antiope by the great 17th century Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius when it sold to a European Private Collector for $6,802,500. Executed in 1612, the painting was formerly in the collection of Abraham Adelsberger (1863-1940), a German Jew whose heirs were forced to sell the picture to Nazi leader Hermann Göring. Following the War the painting was recovered by the Allied forces and sent to the Dutch Government, and in March 2009, the painting was restituted to the heirs of its original owner, Abraham Adelsberger. Francisco Zurbarán’s full-length depiction Saint Doroty Holding a Basket of Apples and Oranges also set a record for the artist, bringing $4,226,500 (est. $3/4 million). Purchased by a European Private Collector this beguiling full length depiction of the virgin martyr Saint Dorothy is one of the most compelling works by the great Sevillian master left in private hands.

A pair of Venice scenes by Italian master Canaletto from the collection of Gordon Getty was also among the top prices of the day. Views of The Piazzetta and The Quay of the Dogana were sold together, bringing $3,890,500 (est. $1.5/2 million). Salomon van Ruysdael’s River View with the Town of Weesp sparked heated competition driving the final price to $3,330,500, more than three times the high estimate and the second highest price ever achieved for the artist at auction (est. $800,000/1 million).

Sixteen works sold by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to benefit future acquisitions brought a total of $3.8 million, far exceeding the collective presale estimate of $1.2/1.7 million. Leading the prices achieved by works from the museum’s collection was Christoph Amberger’s Portrait of Hans Jakob Fugger, which climbed to $1,202,500 (est. $200/300,000).

More than eighty years after one of the art world’s most famous and heated debates began, a Portrait of a Woman, Called ‘La Belle Ferronnière’ by a Follower of Leonardo da Vinci was once again the subject of a battle as four bidders sought to take it home. The famous picture sold to a Private American Collector bidding by telephone for $1,538,500, tripling its high estimate of $500,000. Depicting a lady in three-quarters profile, the portrait is another version of a composition in the Louvre, now believed to be by either Leonardo or one of his pupils, depicting Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Since the widely publicized 1929 slander trial of the art world’s foremost international expert, Sir Joseph Duveen, La Belle Ferronnière’s attribution has been fiercely contested, raising questions of connoisseurship, authenticity, and the role of science in art history in the 21st Century.

Old Master Drawings
Leading off the week was Wednesday’s sale of Old Master Drawings, which brought $3,331,750 (£2,063,642) (€2,379,583) (est. $2.6/3.6 million). The top price was achieved by Canaletto’s Study of a Merchant Vessel, which was the subject of a three-way bidding battle and sold to a Private European Collector for $542,500 (est. $200/300,000). Also by Canaletto, An Architectural Capriccio with a Pavilion and a Ruined Arcade sold for $302,500 (est. $250/350,000). Another Architectural Capriccio by Francesco Guardi soared to $278,500, far surpassing its $50/70,000 estimate.

Gregory Rubinstein, Head of Old Master Drawings, commented, “This was one of the strongest sale results we have had for several years. There was tremendous depth of bidding across the entire sale, driving prices to very high levels – more than half the lots sold achieved prices above their top estimates. While the 20 fine Jacopo Strada drawings of precious metal objects did not sell in the room, they were sold soon after as a group to a buyer who fully appreciates their enormous art-historical importance. The total for that group, if added to our published results, would bring the total well above the pre-sale high estimate of $3.6 million. These results strongly vindicate Sotheby’s policy of continuing to sell works on paper in separate, specialist sales.”

Important European Teracotta and Bronze Sculpture from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections
Friday morning’s single-owner sale of Important European Terracotta and Bronze Sculpture from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections totaled $6,826,067 (£4,232,170) (€4,890,679), outpacing the $3.6/5.3 million presale estimate. Spanning the 15th through the 20th centuries and encompassing both southern and northern Europe, Dr. Sackler’s collection of European bronzes and terracotta sculptures is the most extensive of its kind in private hands. The top price of the morning was achieved by a pair of bronze figures of Apostles Peter and Paul dated circa 1600 and attributed to Tiziano Aspetti, which sold for $542,500 (est. $300/500,000). Museum participation in the sale was strong, with at least two top American institutions buying in the sale, and the Musée du Louvre securing Joseph Chinard’s seductive terracotta sculpture of Phryne Emerging from her Bath, circa 1784-1787, which sold for $482,500 (est. $400/600,000).

Margaret Schwartz, Head of European Works of Art, commented, “We were thrilled with both the response we received to the presale exhibition and the results of the sale. We had international participation among the dealer, institution, and private communities. Never before has such a critical mass of bronze and terracotta sculptures been offered at auction, and we were pleased to see many new collectors bidding as well as long-standing clients.”

Old Master & 19th Century European Art
The series concluded with a sale of Old Master and 19th Century European Art, which brought $2,424,004 (est. $2.2/3.2 million). The sale was led by Edwin Lord Weeks’ Nautch Girl Resting, which sold for $100,500 (est. $20/30,000).