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Sotheby’s European Art Sale: A String of New Records

Sotheby’s series of auctions of 19th-century European paintings in London on May 30 realized £19.5 million ($38.6 million), within the £14.8 million/21.2 million presale estimate.

NEW YORK—Sotheby’s series of auctions of 19th-century European paintings in London on May 30 realized £19.5 million ($38.6 million), within the £14.8 million/21.2 million presale estimate. The sales covered a wide range of genres, including Scandinavian art, Orientalist paintings, and German, Austrian and Central European art. A string of new artist records were set, with buyers from Turkey, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the U.S. competing for works.

Adrian Biddell, Sotheby’s head of 19th-century paintings, noted the strength of the market, “particularly at the upper end. It is clear that demand for works of the very highest quality remains extremely robust.”

The Orientalist sale was the highest-grossing of the sale categories, taking £8.1 million ($15.9 million) for 90 lots. Of these, 70 lots, or 78 percent, were sold, and the auction was 94 percent sold by value. The top lot was A Lady of Constantinople, 1881, by Turkish artist Osman Hamdy Bey (1842-1910), which sold for a record £3.4 million ($6.6 million) against an estimate of £3 mil¬lion/4 million).

That price was followed by the £558,100 ($1.1 million) given for British artist John Frederick Lewis’ Greeting in the Desert, Egypt (Selamat Teiyibin), 1885, by a private buyer. The same work had been sold by Christie’s London more than a century ago, in 1896.

Other record prices included the £350,900 ($693,484) paid for an oil by Italian artist Hermann Corrodi, An Arab Encampment at Sunset (estimate: £120,000/180,000), and the £204,500 ($404,153) given by a European collector for Czechoslavakian artist Anton Robert Leinweber’s La Souk des Étoffes, Tunis (estimate: £120,000/180,000). Henri Rousseau’s 1921 Entrée au Village brought £216,500 ($427,869), against an estimate of £80,000/120,000.

The Scandinavian sale that followed took in a total of £5.2 million ($10.3 million) for 94 lots. Of these, just 49, or 52 percent, were sold. The top lot of the sale accounted for more than half of the total and, given the number of buy-ins, was the main reason for the auction’s 80.5 percent sold-by-value rate. Dancing Shoes, 1882, an oil painting of a young girl by Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946), soared past the £500,000/700,000 estimate to take a record £3 million ($6 million) from a private collector. The painting was the only work to pass the million-pound mark, with all of the remaining lots selling for prices in the six figures and under. The second-highest price was £240,500 ($476,200), paid for an Italian landscape, The Forum Romanum from the Colosseum, by Danish painter Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (estimate: £200,000/300,000). Also a record, albeit at a more modest level, was the £108,500 ($214,830) paid for Rabbineren, 1970, by Norwegian artist Jens Johannessen (estimate: £60,000/80,000).

A watercolor by Swedish artist Carl Larsson Congratulations from Kattegat (estimate: £40,000/60,000) brought £66,500 ($131,670).

The German, Austrian and Central European sale brought £3.7 million ($7.4 million), just under the high estimate of £3.8 million. Here, the top lot was Joseph Anton Koch’s Heroic Landscape with Rainbow, 1824, which was purchased for £1.8 million ($3.6 million) by London dealer Konrad Bernheimer for the Colnaghi Gallery (estimate: £1 mil¬lion/1.5 million).

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