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Volume Holds Steady at Christie’s

Christie’s opened the series with its newly reconfigured sale of Old Master and 19th-century art on July 7, which realized £20.3 million ($32.8 million) for 63 lots offered, comfortably within the estimate of £16 million/24 million.

LONDON—Christie’s opened the series with its newly reconfigured sale of Old Master and 19th-century art on July 7, which realized £20.3million ($32.8million) for 63 lots offered, comfortably within the estimate of £16million/24million. This year’s total was down—though not dramatically so, given the uneven ebb and flow of great Old Masters in the market—from that of the equivalent sale last year, which, without 19th-century works or drawings and watercolors, took in £24.1million ($47.5million) for 48 lots offered.

This year 48, or 76 percent, of the lots on offer were sold, and most top-estimated lots found buyers, though some only on a single bid. Italian 16th-century and 18th-century and Dutch 17th-century pictures dominated. One private U.S. collector bought three of the top lots: Fra Bartolommeo’s signed and dated Madonna and Child, 1516, from the collection of Lady Brenda Cook, was heavily restored, but still fetched a record £2.1million ($3.5million) on an estimate of £2million/3million. The Preaching of St John the Baptist in the Wilderness, a work by Pieter BrueghelII (1564/5–1637/8) from the collection of Baron Evence III Coppée (1882–1945), sold for £1.5million ($2.4million) against an estimate of £1million/1.5million. And Giandomenico Tiepolo’s Angelico and Medoro, which last sold at Christie’s in London in December 1997 for £410,000 ($656,000), sold now for £646,050 ($973,424) against a £600,000/800,000 estimate.

Also among the top lots was Michele Mari­eschi’s Courtyard of the Doge’s Palace, Venice, which last sold at Christie’s in London in December 1996 for a record £1.54million ($2.5million) to German collector Gert-Rudolf Flick. The painting sold now to New York dealer Otto Naumann on a single bid for £2.2million ($3.5million) on an estimate of £2million/3million. Another big price for Italian art was the £825,250 ($1.3million) paid for a stylish Man­nerist Portrait of a Young Gentlemen, once thought to be a self-portrait by Raphael but now attributed to the hand of Giuliano Bugiardini. The work more than tripled its estimate of £150,000/250,000.

A record tumbled among the works from the Dutch school when a large unsigned still life, circa 1640s, by Willem Claesz. Heda (1594–1680) more than doubled its £300,000/500,000 estimate, selling to a European collector for £1.4million ($2.2million). The Head of a Boy, a painting by Frans Hals, had last been sold in March 1995 for £40,000 ($63,600) at Sotheby’s in London, where it was catalogued as the work of a “follower of Frans Hals.” It sold now for £914,850 ($1.5million) to another European collector (estimate: £300,000/500,000).

A monochromatic riverscape by Jan Josefsz. van Goyen, however, which had sold at Christie’s in New York in 1997 for $300,000, now made only £109,250 ($174,800) against an estimate of £80,000/120,000. Demonstrating the universal appeal of Brueghel, his oil on panel The Payment of Tithes sold to an unidentified Rus­sian dealer for £601,250 ($973,424) against an estimate of £300,000/500,000.

Of the 19th-century paintings and drawings in the sale, three late drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres from the collection of the descendants of his first patron, Charles Marcotte, all found buyers, one of them after the sale. The most expensive was a drawing of Joseph Marcotte in his shooting apparel which sold for £313,250 ($507,151) on an estimate of £250,000/350,000. Dealer Konrad Bernheimer was an active bidder for 19th-century paintings, securing Jean-Victor-Louis Faure’s The Pantheon, Rome, for £277,250 ($448,860), above the £100,000/150,000 estimate.

Other dealers active at the sale included Georges de Jonckheere, who secured Lucas Cranach II’s Lucretia for £457,250 ($740,300) against an estimate of £200,000/300,000; Johnny van Haeften, who bought Hendrick Martensz. Sorgh’s A Vegetable Market, for £121,250 ($196,300), within the £100,000/150,000 estimate, and Julian Agnew, who bought a set of four mythological scenes by Giovanni Battista Crosato for £289,250 ($468,300), more than double the estimate of £80,000/120,000. Andrew Wyld bought David Teniers II’s interior scene A Man and Woman Smoking a Pipe for £205,250 ($332,300) against an estimate of £120,000/180,000; Richard Green bought J.M.W. Turner’s watercolor Off Yar­mouth for £301,250 ($487,700), against an estimate of £200,000/300,000, and Edmondo di Robilant bought Jacopo Bassano’s Mannerist Portrait of a Military Commander—which was offered without a reserve—for £103,250 ($167,160), well below the £200,000/300,000 estimate.

At Christie’s £3.6million ($5.76million) day sale on July 8, the big surprise was a portrait of a gentleman, probably Nicholas Lanier, early to mid-1620s, by an unknown artist of the Anglo-Flemish School, which sold to dealer Mark Weiss for £445,250, many times the £30,000/50,000 estimate. Weiss told ARTnewsletter he had positively confirmed the identity of the sitter as Lanier, who was Master of the King’s Musick and the principal ­picture-buying agent for King Charles I.

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