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Old Masters Maintain Momentum at New York Sales

Christie’s realized $57.5 million from its Old Master sale in New York on April 19, setting seven auction records among the top ten lots and achieving a 67 percent sell-through rate. The offering was boosted by the recent restitution of a large group of works from pre-World War II collections. Christie’s year-ago sale, on April

NEW YORK—Christie’s realized $57.5 million from its Old Master sale in New York on April 19, setting seven auction records among the top ten lots and achieving a 67 percent sell-through rate. The offering was boosted by the recent restitution of a large group of works from pre-World War II collections. Christie’s year-ago sale, on April 6, 2006, took in $74.5 million—a figure that included the $35.9 million fetched by Giudecca, La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio, by J.M.W. Turner, a record for a British painting at auction (ANL, 4/25/06).

Among the top works sold this year was Turner’s Glaucus and Scylla, a late painting that was first exhibited at London’s Royal Academy in 1841. The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, paid $6.4 million (estimate: $5/7 million) to return the Turner to its collection, having given it only recently to the heirs of the earlier owners, the European collectors John and Anna Jaffe. In oil on panel, the 307?8-by-30-inch painting depicting a mythological scene had been sold in a 1943 auction of Jewish property by the collaborationist Vichy government of France. Subsequently, in 1966, the Kimbell purchased the work from Newhouse Galleries, New York.

Richard Feigen, the New York dealer who bid for the Kimbell in its repurchase of the Turner, hails the price as “a lucky break for the museum.” Feigen told ARTnewsletter that the Kimbell had been prepared to pay much more for the painting, and that a private collector planning to bid on the painting had entertained second thoughts on the day of the sale.

“There are very few late Turners in private hands, and here was a major one in beautiful condition,” says Feigen, “and it sold for less than a Turner watercolor.” Feigen comments that the market for Turner watercolors is much larger among private collectors than it is for his oils.

The sale also included 45 paintings from the Jacques Goudstikker collection, which Christie’s called “arguably the most important collection of Old Master pictures ever restituted” to families that had lost their works to auction or confiscation during the Nazi era.

Goudstikker was a Dutch art dealer and collector who left some 1,400 works behind when he and his family fled Europe in 1940. Last year approximately 200 of these were returned to his heirs by the Dutch government. Christie’s plans to auction more of the collection at future sales in London (July) and Amsterdam (November).

Of the 45 lots in Christie’s New York catalogue featuring the Goudstikker collection, 31 sold, for a total of $9.7 million. The top lot from the collection was Salomon van Ruysdael’s 17th-century oil-on-panel Ferry Boat with Cattle on the River Vecht near Nijenrode, 1649, which a European dealer acquired for $2.3 million, well below the low estimate of $3 million.

$11M Bellotto Scape Leads

The top lot in the general sale was Bernardo Bellotto’s large-scale, 18th-century picture The Grand Canal at the Church of San Stae, Venice, which had been in an English collection; it fell, within its $8/12 million estimate, for $11 million, an auction record for a Bellotto piece. A record also was set, at $3.4 million (estimate: $2/3 million), for a Venetian Renaissance painting by Cima da Conegliano (Giovanni Battista Cima)—The Madonna and Child in a Landscape—the third-highest lot in the sale.

Another record was set for 16th-century landscape painter Lucas van Valckenborch when French and Company gave $2.8 million, against estimates of $400,000/600,000, for Summer: the Harvest (Le repas de paysans),1597, which had not been on the market since the 1930s.

More records were set in the top-ten tier for Johann Heinrich Tischbein ($2.5 million), Sebastiano Ricci ($2.4 million), Jacobello Aleberegno ($992,000) and Ludger Tom Ring II ($936,000). All but the last of these lots sold well above their high estimates.

Also notable was a 16-by-151/8–inch oil on paper, a study of a bearded man by Sir Anthony van Dyck. Estimated at $400,000/600,000, it went for $1.8 million.

Among the few high-profile works that failed to sell was Ozias Humphry’s 18th-century, oil-on-canvas portrait of a young Jane Austen in a white dress, holding a green parasol. Estimated at $400,000/800,000, it failed to meet the reserve price. Christie’s, which recently changed the dates of its Old Master sales, says the latest sale results “confirm our commitment to a more balanced international sales calendar.”

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