Sotheby’s has surprized the art market by reporting record prices in their annual Old Masters Week sales. The auctioneers have achieved an impressive total of $71,768,126* as of 30 January 2014. Important Old Master Paintings & Sculpture totaled $51,361,251 (est. $42/60 million) with works from the Dutch Golden Age performing particularly well. Multiple bidders entered into a prolonged battle for an important rediscovery by Gerrit van Honthorst, A merry group behind a balustrade with a violin and a lute player,
eventually driving the price to $7,557,000, more than double the pre-sale estimate (est. $2/3 million, page 1) and achieving an artist record at auction. The annunciation by El Greco far exceeded expectations, reaching $5,877,000 (est. $1/1.5 million, left), after five bidders fought for the composition previously known to scholars only from photographs.
Christopher Apostle, Head of Department, Old Master Paintings, Sotheby’s, notes, “Once again, Sotheby’s dominated in the field of Old Master Paintings in New York during Old Masters Week. We were pleased with the results from today’s sales which proved that collectors are searching for quality works at attractive estimates. We had immense participation and global bidding from four continents including Asia, Australia, Europe and North America with a number of new buyers to the Old Masters market. Works
from the Dutch Golden Age performed particularly well led by important rediscoveries by Honthorst and Ochtervelt, and two paintings featuring Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s most iconic subjects – Summer and the Bird Trap. Over the past several seasons, we have seen an increased appetite for paintings from the Renaissance and Rococo which proved to hold true today with our Courts of Europe theme sale which reached above the high estimate.”
Summer: Figures eating during the Summer Harvest by Pieter Brueghel the Younger sold to a determined bidder for $5,205,000, above a pre-sale estimate of $2.5/3.5 million (bottom of page 2). This painting is perhaps the finest and most impeccably preserved example by the artist to emerge in decades and alludes to his father’s famous painting of the Harvesters,
now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A further highlight by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is the popular composition, The Bird Trap, which also surpassed estimates bringing $2,741,000 (est. $1.5/2.5 million, left). The prices achieved for Summer and The Bird Trap each established a new benchmark for these subjects by the artist. Our cover lot of the sale, a recent discovery by Jacob Ochtervelt (A child and nurse in the foyer of an elegant townhouse, the parents beyond), fetched $4,421,000 (est. $3/4 million), above estimate and a new auction record for the artist.
The three lots recovered by the Monuments Men, all bearing the traces of the Nazi’s collecting and documenting process, brought a combined total of $1,515,000, led by Apollonio di Giovanni’s Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, a cassone panel, which more than tripled pre-sale estimate, achieving $701,000.
Additional artist records were set including for Joos van Cleve, Jan Miense Molenaer, Bartolomeo Schedoni, among others.
Sotheby’s themed sale, The Courts of Europe: Renaissance to Rococo surpassed its high estimate, totaling $16,400,750 with over 76% lots sold and over 90% of lots sold achieving at or above their estimate (est. $10/15 million). Leading the sale was a bronze of Samson slaying the Philistine attributed to Willem van Tetrode which achieved $3,301,000, more than double the high estimate ($800,000/1.2 million). Multiple bidders drove the price of the unique and striking Portrait of a gyrfalcon, viewed from three sides to $3,189,000, more than triple the high estimate ($700,000/1 million, bottom of page 3). The cover lot of the sale, François Boucher’s The sleep of Venus, painted for the Marquise de Pompadour (the official mistress of King Louis XV), fetched $2,405,000 (est. $2/3 million), while multiple bidders battled for Bertel Thorvaldsen’s set of four reliefs of Cupid and Bacchus, Cupid received by Anacreon, Pan teaching a child satyr to play reed pipe, Bacchante and child satyr, eventually selling at more than three times the high estimate at $2,405,000 (est. $500/800,000) – both artist records at auction. Further artist records for the sale include Simon Vouet and Anton Raphael Mengs.
Old Master Drawings brought a total of $4,006,125 within pre-sale estimate (est. $3.9/5.4 million). Highlighting the sale was a magnificent and well preserved drawing by Giandomenico Tiepolo, Incontro al molo: a ‘codega’ showing the way to a noble couple on a molo, which brought $725,000, setting a new auction record for a work on paper by the artist (left). A second drawing by Tiepolo, Punchinello
collapses on the road, which illustrates scenes from the life of Punchinello, sold for $695,000, above the pre-sale estimate of $400/600,000. A rare, red and black chalk portrait of the playwright Ottaviano Castelli drawn in the 1640s by the great Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini sold for $233,000 (est. $150/200,000), achieving a record for a work on paper by the artist. Additionally, artist records were set for Benoît Blanc for Madame Léonie Bouchage, Henri Auguste for Design for a wine cooler, as well as a record for a work on paper by Santi di Tito for The agony in the garden.
Image: Courtesy Sotheby’s Gerrit van Honthorst, A merry group behind a balustrade with a violin and a lute player, eventually driving the price to $7,557,000, more than double the pre-sale estimate (est. $2/3 million)