NEW YORK—A sale of American and European art, held by Skinner in Boston on May 20, was short on big-ticket items but a resounding success when it came to modest paintings, prints and sculptures, whose prices far exceeded their estimates. The auction house placed a presale estimate of $900,000/1.2 million on the auction, producing a total result of $1.5 million, with nearly 83 percent of the lots finding buyers.
An 1876 oil-on-canvas portrait of an unknown woman by Italian artist Edoardo Matania, which was in somewhat poor condition and given an estimate of $800/1,200, earned $15,275. Similarly, an unsigned Italian oil-on-canvas religious scene from the late 16th century, authorship unknown, achieved a price of $38,775, well above its $3,500/5,500 estimate. Yet another Italian painting, The Little Pumpkin, 1881, by Vincenzo Caprile, outperformed its $4,000/6,000 estimate to earn $45,825.
There were a few higher-estimate works in the sale, such as Rockwell Kent’s 1941 oil-on-canvas Just Shot, which had been expected to sell at $150,000/250,000 but fetched $121,500, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 19th-century bronze Head of Victory that was estimated at $35,000/50,000 and realized $127,000. An untitled 1960 standing mobile metal sculpture by Alexander Calder, which was featured on the cover of the Skinner sale catalogue, bore a $40,000/60,000 estimate and brought $121,500. The sculpture was one of five works by the artist (the others were gouaches on paper) that had been consigned by a New England collector, and all were sold either within or above the auctioneer’s estimates.
Colleen Fesko, director of the European and American department, noted that a strong euro and weak dollar combined to bring a substantial quantity of bids and buying from abroad. The Calder mobile and Saint-Gaudens bronze, as well as the painting by Matania and the 16th-century religious scene, all fell to Europeans who had left bids or else were on the phones.