NEW YORK—A crayon-and-ink-on-paper portrait by Pablo Picasso of his dealer, Ambroise Vollard With His Cat, 1938, was the top lot at Skinner’s May 15 sale of American and European paintings in Boston, bringing a price of $308,500 with buyer’s premium, under the estimate of $450,000/650,000. The drawing was consigned from the estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Grasso, of Essex, Conn., a cousin of the former first lady.
The sale included 529 lots, and took $1.54 million, just under the estimate of $1.8 million/2.7 million. A healthy 81 percent of lots were sold—a significant improvement over the low to mid-70s percentages of the last two sales, in March and November—though many of them, like the Picasso, went for prices considerably below estimate.
An undated pen-and-ink drawing by Henri Matisse, Seated Woman in Oriental Dress, also sold below expectations, earning $118,500 against a $150,000/250,000 estimate. The Annunciation, 1954, an ink and watercolor on board by Salvador Dali, realized $41,475 (estimate: $40,000/50,000), and Anemones, circa 1938, a gouache by Raoul Dufy, brought $35,550 (estimate: $40,000/60,000).
Among the other top lots were Romare Bearden’s painting Christ Taken by Soldiers, 1945, which sold for $26,070 (estimate: $15,000/25,000); Jacob Epstein’s portrait bronze of writer W. Somerset Maugham, which sold for $22,515 (estimate: $10,000/15,000), and two tabletop bronzes by Henry Moore—Standing Mother and Child: Holes, 1955, which sold for $30,810 (estimate: $50,000/75,000), and Head: Cyclops, 1963, which sold for $18,960 (estimate: $30,000/50,000).
The sale also featured a group of paintings by Iraqi artists. Dia Azzawi led this section with four oils, each estimated at $25,000/30,000. All four sold: Masks of Abyss, 1966, took $41,475; Visit of Al Kassim, 1968, brought $36,735; Ancient Symbols, 1964, took $23,700; and Al Shamr, 1965, sold for $15,405. Kadhim Hayder’s The Martyr’s Epic, 1965, brought the strong price of $24,885, above the estimate of $15,000/20,000.
Although the sale was titled “American and European paintings,” the lots reflected a wider scope in medium and geography. “We take an expansive view,” Laura Conover, assistant to the director of Skinner’s paintings department, told ARTnewsletter. The definition of “American” has been expanded to include Latin American artists, and the auction included ink drawings by 20th-century Chinese artists as well as contemporary Iraqi paintings.