NEW YORK—Sales of 19th-century European art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s varied widely, with Sotheby’s taking in $20.5 million compared to $8.9 million at Christie’s. Sotheby’s sold 161, or 61 percent, of 265 lots on April 20, while Christie’s April 19 sale saw just 133 of 213 lots sold at a rate of 62 percent. Christie’s total was a notch above the $8.4 million posted last April, while Sotheby’s improved considerably on the $11.9 million total realized a year ago.
Polly Sartori, senior vice president of Sotheby’s 19th-century European art department, says the house was “able to attract several very important consignments for our auction” this time around.
A single painting at Christie’s broke the million dollar mark: Gustave Moreau’s Desdémone, 1875-78, fetched $1.1. million, but fell short of the estimate of $1.5 million/2.5 million.
Buying by American collectors dominated the top lots, with six of the highest-priced works selling to private U.S. buyers. These included: The Palace Attendant, a 1901 oil by Ludwig Deutsch that fetched $396,800 (estimate: $300,000/500,000); The Flower Seller, by Eugène de Blaas (1843-1932), a picture that realized $352,000 (estimate: $300,000/500,000); and Saulaie à Saint Nicolas près d’Arras, circa 1858-80, by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, which went over-estimate for $228,000 (estimate: $100,000/150,000).
Observes Deborah Coy, head of the Christie’s 19th-century European art department: “Today’s sale reflected, above all, a very strong market for Orientalist works. Among the more traditional collecting categories the Italian painters performed well, as did the all-time favorites Corot and [Gustave] Courbet.”
Christie’s reports that two auction records were set during the sale—the first when Edmé-Alexis Alfred Dehodencq’s 1858 painting Le conteur Marocain jumped to $710,400 (estimate: $350,000/550,000). Also a record was the $464,000 paid for Adolf Schreyer’s 1863 work The Chase (estimate: $200,000/300,000). Christie’s lists the buyers of both works as private collectors from the Middle East.
“The Dehodencq work achieved a price that was six times higher than the artist’s previous world auction record, and his Le conteur Marocain was the trophy of a bidding frenzy between Middle Eastern and American bidders,” notes Coy.
At Sotheby’s the top lot was William Adolphe Bouguereau’s Song of the Angels, which made $1.6 million (estimate: $1/1.5 million. This was followed by the Giovanni Boldini painting Portrait of Mrs. Howard Johnston, priced at $1 million (estimate: $500,000/700,000), which went to an Italian collector. Boldini’s Portrait of Madam Hugo and Her Son also fared well, taking $968,000 against an estimated $800,000/1 million.
Sartori describes the works featured in the sale as “one of the most comprehensive selections of Victorian paintings seen in a New York auction in many years.” She adds, “We continue to see more new American collectors, who are currently the dominant force in our market at the high end.”
American buyers snapped up two other Bouguereau works among the auction’s top lots. Enfant tressant une couronne took $867,200, while The Mischievous One sold for $676,800. Both paintings were estimated at $500,000/700,000.