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$37.3M Raphael Oil Crowns Christie’s Old Master Auction

Christie’s ensured it would handle the star lot of the Old Master sales by taking a financial interest in Raphael’s Portrait of Lorenzo de Medici. Owned by New York dealer Ira Spanierman, who bought it as painted “by an unknown hand” in 1968 for $325, the work flew past its £15 million high estimate to

LONDON—Christie’s ensured it would handle the star lot of the Old Master sales by taking a financial interest in Raphael’s Portrait of Lorenzo de Medici. Owned by New York dealer Ira Spanierman, who bought it as painted “by an unknown hand” in 1968 for $325, the work flew past its £15 million high estimate to fetch £18.5 million ($37.3 million)—an auction record for an Italian Old Master painting and the second-highest price (after Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents, 1609) paid for an Old Master in dollar terms.

In all, Christie’s realized £41.5 million ($83.7 million), up from £32 million ($58.9 million) a year ago.

Any presale doubts about the Raphael, which was estimated quite low for a painting by the artist, were swept away as several bidders went for it, including London dealer Simon Dickinson and private Israeli collector Joseph Hackmey. Underbid by an anonymous woman with an American accent, the painting fell to an anonymous buyer bidding through Christie’s specialist Paul Raison on the phone.

The Raphael portrait was the final lot in an uneven auction on July 5 in which 40 percent of the 91 lots went unsold.

After the Raphael, the Italian schools were led by a spruced up Pietà, from the baroque painter Domenichino, which sold to New York dealer Otto Naumann, bidding against London dealer Patrick Matthiesen, for a record £3 million, or $6.1 million (estimate: £2.5/3.5 million).

Proceedings had begun with 32 lots of mainly Dutch paintings from the collection of Jacques Goudstikker, the Dutch dealer whose stock had been stolen by the Nazis. As in the first part of this collection’s dispersal in New York, results were rather disappointing, returning £3.1 million ($6.2 million), a figure below the presale estimate of £3.2/5 million.

The top price of £512,800, or $1 million (estimate: £200,000/400,000), was given for The Buitenhof, the Hague, by Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde, by a phone buyer bidding against Johnny Van Haeften. In its wake was the £356,000, or $717,300 (estimate: £200,000/300,000), paid by Van Haeften for A Stormy Seascape, by Jan van Goyen. But the highest-estimated lot, An Altarpiece of the Last Supper, by the previously unknown Master of the Pauw and Zas Altarpiece (estimate: £1/1.5 million), failed to sell.

British Works: Mixed Results

This was the first London Old Master sale at Christie’s since the merging of the Old Master and British paintings departments earlier this year, and here again results were mixed. Portraits by Joshua Reynolds (estimate: £1.5/2.5 million) and Joseph Wright of Derby (estimate: £200,000/300,000) went unsold, as did a painting by Sir Peter Lely, Portrait of a Young Woman and Child as Venus and Cupid. Before the auction’s end, however, the Lely painting was sold privately and has been noted on Artnet.com as a record £1.5 million, or $3 million (estimate: £1.5/2 million), for the artist.

More convincing were the sale of a pair of Wright of Derby landscapes that made £602,000, or $1.2 million (estimate: £200,000/300,000), falling to a phone buyer bidding against dealers Dickinson and Richard Green; and a portrait of a girl in a white dress and straw bonnet, The Woodland Maid, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, which was acquired by Green for £1.2 million, or $2.4 million (estimate: £800,000/1.2 million).

French paintings played virtually no part in the sale, and one of the few Spanish paintings on offer was a fine, small head of a saint by Jusepe de Ribera (estimate: £150,000/200,000), which was pursued by London dealer Konrad Bernheimer but eventually went to a phone bidder for £860,000 ($1.7 million).

Dutch and Flemish Pieces Sell Well

The vast majority of works were from the more marketable Northern schools, especially Dutch and Flemish artists. A stylized Portrait of a Lady, by German Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Younger, sold for a record £1.8 million, or $3.6 million (estimate: £500,000/700,000), to Bernheimer; and a Rubensian painting, The Revel of Bacchus and Silenus by Jacob Jordaens, made a dollar record when it sold to a U.S. collector, bidding against Naumann, for £1.7 million, or $3.4 million (estimate: £500,000/800,000).

By far the biggest buyer was Van Haeften, who bought 26 paintings during the week for around £8 million ($16 million).

At Christie’s, Van Haeften’s top buys were Anthonie De Lorme’s The Interior of the Laurenskerk, Rotterdam, for £1 million or $2 million (estimate: £300,000/500,000), after a bidding duel with New York’s French & Co.; and Ferdinand Bol’s Venus and Cupid, for which he paid a record £994,000, or $2 million (estimate: £100,000/150,000).

After the sale, Van Haeften, who was buying mainly for stock for his biannual December Old Master exhibition, said that there was “no price” he would not have paid for the condition, quality and rarity of the Bol, which was straight out of the artist’s Rembrandt period.

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