LONDON—A steady performance by Sotheby’s and Christie’s at London’s Old Master winter sales resulted in joint takings of £26.9 million ($46.6 million) for the Part One sales on Dec. 7-8—much in line with the past two winter sales in London. Of the total, Sotheby’s realized £10.4 million ($18 million), while Christie’s took in £16.5 million ($28.5 million).
In comparison, Christie’s Part One sale last December made £11 million ($21.16 million), while Sotheby’s earned £15.9 million ($30.2 million). The major difference in the latest season was that Christie’s had the better consignments this time around.
For all sales combined—including one at its middle-market Olympia saleroom (£682,080) and another of a private collection (£1.1 million)—Sotheby’s realized £16.3 million ($29 million), while Christie’s posted a total of £21 million ($36.9 million), including a £1 million sale on Dec. 7 at South Kensington.
Christie’s was able to claim market-share advantage over Sotheby’s for the first time in many years in the Old Master department.
At Sotheby’s, Lack of Star Power
Sotheby’s sold the three highest-estimated lots in its £10.4 million ($18 million) sale on Dec. 7, but was not able to garner enough interest in the middle-tier price range to rescue what was one of its weaker Old Master selections. Comments department head Alexander Bell: “The sale lacked the kind of star paintings we have offered in recent years.” Eleven lots estimated in the £100,000/400,000 range failed to sell.
The top lot was Aelbert Cuyp’s Landscape with a Hunt and a Portrait of a Youth with His Tutor, which was bought close to the low estimate for £1.1 million ($1.96 million) by Alan Hobart of the Pyms Gallery, London.
Several gold-ground paintings that performed well were led by Lorenzo Monaco’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness, which fell to London dealer Daniel Katz for £1 million, or $1.76 million (estimate: £600,000/800,000).
A classic Pieter Brueghel the Younger, A Winter Landscape with the Massacre of the Innocents, went to London dealer Johnny van Haeften for £736,000, or $1.3 million (estimate: £500,000/700,000).
Northern school paintings dominated the balance of the sale, with private collectors paying prices far above estimates for some examples. David Teniers the Younger’s The Hustle-Cap, 1670, sold to a private collector for £467,200, or $810,218 (estimate: £80,000/120,000); and a record £512,000, or $888,000 (estimate: £200,000/300,000) was paid for the early 16th-century Portrait of Jan Gerritz van Egmond, by Jacob van Oostsanen. Sotheby’s cover lot, Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of Prince Charles Louis Elector Palatine, was bought by Simon Dickinson for £456,000 ($790,000), just above the low estimate.
Christie’s Top Lot a Virtual Rub-Off
Christie’s failed to sell its highest-estimated lot, an unfinished double portrait by Titian that had been revealed after restoration and the removal of centuries-old overpaint by another hand. What was left, however, was too thin to command any bids at all as the auctioneer attempted, unsuccessfully, to generate interest close to the low presale estimate of £5 million.
However, the £16.5 million ($28.5 million) sale on Dec 8 was marked by a consignment of eight pictures (apparently without competition from Sotheby’s) from Brenda, Lady Cook, a descendant of Victorian collector Sir Francis Cook. All were sold for a total of £9 million ($15.6 million), nearly twice the presale estimate. Sir Peter Paul Rubens’ oil sketch Meleager and Atlanta hunting the Boar made the top price of the evening when it sold over the phone for £3.1 million, or $5.4 million (estimate: £2/3 million).
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s Christ the Man of Sorrows was pursued by several bidders before falling at a record £2.5 million, or $4.3 million (estimate: £500,000/700,000), to London dealer Luca Baroni. And a private European collector paid a record £1.2 million ($2.1 million) for a rare, signed gold-ground painting, Madonna and Child, by Naddo Ceccarelli.
Other works from the Cook collection to impact were a Portrait of Captain Alexander Hood, later 1st Viscount Bridport (1726-1814). . ., by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which was acquired by London dealer Richard Green for £512,000, or $888,000 (estimate: £250,000/350,000); and Group Portrait of a Family in an Italianate Garden, by Nicolaes Maes, which fell, also to Green, for a record £792,000, or $1.4 million (estimate: £400,000/600,000).