NEW YORK—Sotheby’s sale of 19th-century European art, including Orientalist art, on April 18 achieved a total of $26.4 million, in the middle of the $23.7 million/32.9 million estimate, despite uneven demand and a relatively high number of unsold lots. Of 291 works on offer, 118, or just over 40 percent, were unsold. By value, the auction sale rate was much higher, at 80 percent.
Works by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) figured prominently among the top lots, with three paintings in the top ten.
The highest price of the sale, $2.1 million, was given for Le Déjeuner du Matin (Morning Breakfast), 1887, against an estimate of $1.2 million/1.5 million, and La Première Discorde (Cain and Abel), 1861, brought $1.7 million (estimate: $1.2 million/1.5 million). Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Watching and Waiting, which had been owned by Henry Clay Frick at the turn of the century, brought $970,600 (estimate: $700,000/900,000).
The Orientalist section accounted for just over $9 million in sales, the highest total yet for a dedicated offering of Orientalist art in New York, according to Sotheby’s, and records were set for artists including Arthur von Ferraris, Walter Gould, Rudolf Ernst and Federico Bartolini.
This was the first time in nearly a decade that Sotheby’s held a dedicated sale of Orientalist art, featuring works that depict North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. Ali Can Ertug, Sotheby’s vice president for business development in Turkey and emerging markets, said the sale was organized in response to “strong international demand.”
The top-selling lot of the Orientalist sale was Jean Léon Gérôme’s Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul, which brought $1.9 million (estimate: $1.8 million/2.2 million).
Sotheby’s specialist Polly Sartori noted that seven works sold for more than $1 million each, adding that the average lot value was $152,000, “demonstrating the increased demand for the best examples of this genre, a trend we have been seeing in our market over the last two years.”
Among the record prices was the $1.5 million paid for French artist Jehan-Georges Vibert’s Gulliver and the Lilliputians (estimate: $500,000/700,000) after competition among nearly ten bidders in the room and on the phone, and the $1.3 million (estimate: $650,000/850,000) paid for Ernst’s The Fountain of Ahmed, III, Istanbul, 1892. An 1869 painting by Gould, The Public Scribe, brought a record $1.2 million (estimate: $800,000/1.2 million) and Driving a Bargain, Cairo, 1890, by von Ferraris, sold for $1 million (estimate: $500,000/700,000).