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French Auction Roundup: Sturdy Showings Across the Board

Art auctions in Paris and nearby cities, spanning a wide range of mediums that included sculpture, Fauvist paintings and anonymous daguerreotypes, brought strong prices last month.

PARIS—Art auctions in Paris and nearby cities, spanning a wide range of mediums that included sculpture, Fauvist paintings and anonymous daguerreotypes, brought strong prices last month.

In Paris on Feb 14, Artcurial totaled €526,500 ($689,700), with 75 works from the estate of artist/sculptor Jean (Robert) Ipoustéguy (1920-2006), who enjoyed a heyday in the 1960s when he was represented in New York by Pierre Loeb. Even though the artist later fell into relative oblivion, his work can be found today in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Rockefeller Collection.

The sale ensemble, spanning Ipoustéguy’s career from 1942-2003, included 30 sculptures that generated the keenest interest. The 1965 bronze Ecbatane (numbered 6/6), a preparatory work for a sculpture commissioned by the City of Berlin in 1979, set an auction record for an Ipoustéguy work of €104,800 ($137,300). It fell to a Swiss collector.

The sculptor’s 1966 life-size bronze nude La terre went to a European institution for €59,200 ($77,500); other castings may be found in the Tate Modern, London; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The artist’s top-selling marble sculpture was the white Carrara marble Alvéole A, 1967, which was acquired by a French collector for €43,200 ($56,600).

The 30 works on paper sold in the €200/500 range. But the pick of the dozen paintings, influenced by Ipoustéguy’s close friend and fellow artist Sam Szafran, was a large, reclining nude, Adrénaline, 1967, which won €16,600 ($21,700).

Lévy Trove Triples Estimate

More than 2,000 people attended the three-day, 959-lot sale of the Pierre Lévy estate in Troyes, 110 miles southeast of Paris, from Feb. 2-4. Local textile baron Lévy (1907-2002) had donated most of his art collection—centering on the Fauves—to the town museum in 1976. The ensemble offered here by auctioneers Boissy-Pomez consisted of works he had acquired after that date, or had kept for himself. The €6.1 million ($7.9 million) sale total tripled expectations, with ten lots exceeding €100,000 ($129,000) and only two lots going unsold. A third of the works were sold abroad.

Lévy was a friend to numerous artists: André Masson, Henri Matisse, Chaïm Soutine, Pierre Tal-Coat and Ossip Zadkine. He was especially close to André Derain and Maurice Marinot, best-known for his Art Deco glassware but represented here by 140 paintings totaling €498,000 ($642,400)—led by his Femme au collier de fleurs, 1921, which was acquired by the Museum of Troyes for €36,600 ($47,200).

With the exception of a 1955 Abstract Composition, by Roger Bissiere, bought at Sotheby’s London in 1990 and sold here for €36,600 ($47,200), Lévy’s tastes ran almost exclusively to figurative art. Two painters in demand were Charles Dufresne (1876-1938), with a couple of colorful still lifes that sold for €21,155 ($27,300) apiece; and Raymond Legueult, whose 1932 Noémie dans l’atelier posted his third-best auction price of €59,460 ($76,700).

The top price was a triple-estimate €549,000 ($708,200), given for Raoul Dufy’s Les régates, originally painted in 1935 but reworked in 1944, with a dedication to “Pierre et Madame Denise Lévy” on the back. Two small, undated Fauvist works by Kees van Dongen followed: Deauville au casino, at €377,360 ($486,800); and Deux jeunes filles sur la plage, at €240,140 ($309,800). A Paul Cézanne Paysage, circa 1865, once owned by his dealer Ambroise Vollard and bought by Lévy from the Paris trade in 1941, fetched €211,550 ($272,900).

Lévy’s eye for minor masters from Central Europe prompted phone bidding from Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. Hungary’s Bela Czobel, with a Paysage de Cagnes, circa 1936, fetched a quadruple-estimate €41,170 ($53,100); and Le ballet, 1936, by Czech artist Georges Kars, made €34,300 ($44,250).

‘Surprises’ at Galerie de Chartres

Fifty-four daguerreotype plates from the 1840s, by an unknown French photographer, brought €107,900 ($139,200) at the Galerie de Chartres, 50 miles southwest of Paris, on Feb. 10. The plates, in good condition, ranged in size from one-sixth to half-plate and were mainly portraits and multifigure compositions.

Mystery surrounded the artist’s identity and origins. Some experts think it was the Marquis de Lussac, owner of the now-demolished Chateau of Comacre, 20 miles south of Tours, subject of a quarter-plate view that was one of 15 lots sold to Alsace dealer Frédéric Hoch—along with a Portrait de vieille paysanne assise (both for €575, or $741).

The top price at the sale was the €24,150 ($31,150) paid by a French dealer bidding on behalf of a major European collector, for a quarter- plate entitled Deux Personnages, with a seated man looking into a telescope. The other highlight was a one-third-plate portrait of a hunting dog at €14,400 ($18,600).

Noting that the collection constituted a major discovery, sale expert Arnaud Delas observed, “There are still surprises out there!”

SIMON HEWITT

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