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Auction Houses See Mixed Demand for Orientalist Art

Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales of 19th-century European paintings, including Orientalist art, on Oct. 22–23 were marked by lower volume and higher buy-in rates than at similar sales a year ago.

NEW YORK—Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales of 19th-century European paintings, including Orientalist art, on Oct. 22–23 were marked by lower volume and higher buy-in rates than at similar sales a year ago.

Christie’s offered 252 lots, of which 110, or 44 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 53 percent sold. In total the house took in $10.8 million, down from the $14.7 million of last October.

Sotheby’s took in $13.7 million for 213 lots offered. Of these, 105, or 49 percent, found buyers. The auction was 48 percent sold by value.

The top lot at Christie’s was an 1881 oil by Alberto Pasini, Mercato in Oriente, which brought $1.1 million, well above the estimate of $500,000/700,000. The $1.08 million achieved for Edme Alexis Alfred Dehodencq’s oil Musiciens juifs dans les rues de Tétuan, circa 1858, was a record for the artist (estimate: $400,000/600,000). Artist records were also set for Wilhelm Kuhnert, with A Pride of Lions on the Prowl, which sold for $590,500, well above the estimated $250,000/350,000, and for Victor Gabriel Gilbert, with the painting The Lower Market, Paris, 1881, which garnered $542,500 (estimate: $250,000/350,000). Christie’s head of 19th-century art and Orientalist art Deborah Coy said private collectors dominated the bidding, and noted “truly international” demand.

Among lots that sold even though they missed their low estimates were William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s La Petite Esméralda, 1874, which brought in $362,500 against an estimate of $400,000/600,000, and Aleksei Harlamoff’s Moody Girl, circa 1900, which sold for $962,500, well under the low estimate of $1.2 million.

At Sotheby’s, Bouguereau’s La Petite Maraudeuse rose above the estimate of $900,000/1.2 million to take $1.6 million from a U.S. collector. The top lot of the sale was Leopold Carl Müller’s An Almée’s Admirers, 1882, which fetched $1.65 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million). And Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Le Barde Noir took in $1.2 million (estimate: $700,000/1 million).

Polly Sartori, head of 19th-century European art, said having sold three paintings for over $1 million each was “a great achievement given the current uncertainty in the global financial markets. We were pleased with the positive reaction we saw, with clients interested in spending money on a variety of artists and subjects.” Sartori added that in the future the house will continue to focus on assembling “tightly curated sales.”

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