A marble statue by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin has sold at Sotheby’s, New York for a record $20.4m (£14m). The Impressionist and Modern art sale had mixed results with only a 60% sell through rate, seeing winners like Claude Monet’s wife ‘Camille’ sold for $49.4m (£34m) and dismal results for Picasso where out of eight lots on offer, four found no buyers and the remaining four sold for hammer prices below the lower estimate. Other works failed to find buyers despite bids almost reaching the lower estimate.
The result of the evening was Rodin’s Eternal Springtime a medium sized work, created from a single block of marble, in 1901. The previous highest price paid for a Rodin was $16.6m (£11.5m) in February and that work was in bronze. The bronze, called Iris, Messenger of the God, is considered Rodin’s most sensual and sexually explicit work. Several versions were cast and one of the others was once owned by the late British artist Lucian Freud.
The work is believed to be only the fifth in a series of 10 known carvings of the same subject created in marble by Rodin. It was modelled during Rodin’s most active period and was intended as part of Rodin’s most famous collection of sculptures, The Gates of Hell. In the end, it was not included – in the same way that Rodin’s most famous individual work The Kiss was not. It is thought that Eternal Springtime’s subject – the happiness of two young lovers – was ultimately assessed as being too jovial for the tragedy played out in The Gates of Hell. Eternal Springtime was very successful and was translated several times into bronze and marble. Other highlights of the Sotheby’s sale included an important pointillist painting by Paul Signac. The Port Houses, Saint-Trope sold for $10.7m (£7m). The painting depicts the French Riviera town of Saint-Tropez in 1882. The painting had been in the same family for nearly 60 years. The auction record for a Signac work is $14m, paid in 2007. An early portrait of . The most paid to date for a work by the French impressionist is $80.4m (£56m), set in June 2008 at Christie’s in London for Le Bassin aux Nympheas,
The Rodin sculpture’s buyer has not been disclosed by Sotheby’s New York.