A work by Edouard Manet has set a new auction record for the French impressionist. ‘Spring’, a portrait of a French actress, sold at Christie’s in New York for £40.6 million, a sum that almost doubled the previous record of £20.7 million for a work by Manet. The oil painting was in the possession of the same family for more than 100 years and depicts actress Jeanne Demarsy in a floral dress and bonnet, in typical Manet fashion.
The masterpiece that was painted by the acclaimed artist in 1881 had been estimated to sell for up to £21.9 million. The work has been on loan to Washington’s National Gallery of Art for the past 20 years. The painting was initially intended to be one of a series of four works, but Manet only completed Spring and Autumn before his death in 1883, aged just 51.
The Christie’s auction of modern and impressionist art fetched more than £103 million compared with a £277 million sale at their auction rival Sotheby’s earlier this week. “well-priced and tailored to today’s tastes” – was how the sale was described by Brooke Lampley, head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s.
The second most expensive lot in Wednesday’s sale failed to sell. Yet ‘Les constructeurs avec arbre’, by French cubist painter Fernand Leger, that had been valued up to £13.7 million was the second most expensive lot in Wednesday’s sale but failed to sell.The work strangely failed to raise significant interest in the auction room.
But other works were considered of greater interest with the sale of Alberto Giacometti’s Stele III sculpture, which fetched £6.1 million and Joan Miro’s Tuilerie a Mont-roig, which sold for £5.4 million.
Doug Woodham, president of Christie’s Americas stated that the success of the auction was down to “the widespread interest in Impressionist and modern art,”