More than 40 works from the collection of the esteemed Old Masters dealer Richard L. Feigen sold at Sotheby’s on Monday for $16.1 million. Spanning the 14th to 20th centuries, the works managed to surpass their collective low estimate of $10.9 million. The auction also saw a new record set for 19th-century British painter Richard Parkes Bonington.
Before his death in January from Covid-related causes, Feigen periodically sold significant Old Masters works at auction that netted large sums. For that reason, experts had been attentively awaiting this auction. Despite the hype around, many lots in the Sotheby’s auction failed to find buyers. The sale saw a less-than-stellar 78 percent sell-through rate, with 12 works left unsold.
Feigen first opened his famed gallery in Chicago in 1957 and later expanded to New York, London, and Los Angeles. Eventually, he went on to build a roster of high-profile clients, like financier Leon Black and museums such as the Louvre.
The top lot of the sale was Bonington’s painting of the Grand Canal in Venice, The Palazzo Manolesso, made during the 19th century. Two bidders competed for the work, moving the hammer price up to more than double its low estimate of $2 million. The work eventually sold for a record $7.4 million with premium, going to a private collector on the phone with Sotheby’s old masters specialist Christopher Apostle.
That result beat the previous record for a work by Bonington, which was set in 2015 when A coastal landscape with fisherfolk (ca. 1802-1828) sold during a Christie’s London sale for $3.8 million. It appears that the market for Bonington, who died before he turned 30, is heating up. Just this past Monday, six works by the Romantic landscape painter sold at Sotheby’s for a collected $10.6 million, nearly $7 million more than their estimate of $3.7 million.
The excitement over the Bonington likely came because Feigen was known to have eye for significant works by the artist, whose paintings rarely come to market. Through his gallery, Feigen even helped place works by Bonington in the collections of institutions like the Kimball Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
Feigen also specialized in selling works by Max Beckmann, and the German Expressionist’s painting Portrait of a Turk (1926), a dimly lit portrait of a bearded man holding a cigarette, was among the works sold this week. Making its auction debut, the painting generated a bidding war and ultimately sold for $2.7 million. It hammered just above its low estimate at $2.2 million and went to a private collector in California, who was on the phone with Sotheby’s global head of Old Masters, George Wachter.
Other works by Italian Old Masters met expectations, but failed to spur bidders to compete with as much fervor as the Bonington painting. Annibale Carracci’s biblical scene The Return From The Flight Into Egypt (ca. 17th century) sold for $485,000, against a low estimate of $400,000. A tiny painting of three singing cherubs by 15th-century painter Ambrogio di Stefano da Fossano sold for $136,800, against an estimate of $80,000.