PARIS—The most important ensemble of 19th-century sculpture ever to be offered at auction was sold in Paris over two days (Oct. 26–27) in an auction staged by Sotheby’s in association with PIASA.
The works at auction came from the Fabius Collection, a family that had been a prominent antique-dealing dynasty in France since 1882 and ran a well-known antiques gallery on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris.
The auction fetched a total of €9.6 million ($13.4 million), compared with a presale estimate of €8.3 million/12.4 million, and sold 72.6 percent by lot, 78.6 percent by value.
The Fabius collection consisted predominantly of works by 19th-century sculptors Antoine-Louis Barye and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, as well as notable 19th-century drawings and important works in glass, ceramics and furniture. The sale established four artist records, as well as a record for a sale of 19th-century European sculpture.
The top lot of the auction, acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, was a pair of Sèvres hard-paste porcelain Medici vases dated 1811, signed Jean-François Robert. The pair sold for €983,150 ($1.4 milllion), nearly doubling the low end of the €500,000/800,000 estimate. It also established a record for 19th-century Sèvres porcelain vases at auction.
Sculptures by Carpeaux broke records twice during the auction. A pair of life-sized statues in marble, one of a girl with a shell and the other of a young fisherman, entitled Jeune Fille à la Coquille and Pêcheur à la Coquille, sold for €936,750 ($1.3 million), against an estimate of €800,000/1.2 million. The final price more than tripled the previous auction record for Carpeaux.
Carpeaux’s bust of his wife, La Candeur, 1873, sold for €360,750 ($503,773), compared with a presale estimate of €100,000/150,000. The artist’s original plaster of a famous character from Dante’s Divine Comedy, entitled Ugolin entouré de ses quatre enfants (Ugolino and his four children), fetched €276,750 ($386,470), almost four times the €50,000/70,000 estimate. Meanwhile, Carpeaux’s iconic L’Espiègle, 1865, a bust in white marble on a red marble base, was also in the top ten, bringing €204,750 ($285,925) on an estimate of €70,000/100,000.
A unique bronze cast by Barye, Eléphant (The Walking Elephant), 1832, was the third-highest lot of the sale. Formerly in the collection of Louis d’Orléans, Duc de Nemours, the piece went to a French private collector for €756,750 ($1 million) with premium, more than doubling its pre-sale estimate of €300,000/500,000 and also more than doubling the previous record at auction for Barye.
Other top sellers included: Theodore Deck’s Grand Vase, ca. 1870-80, which fetched €36,750 ($51,320), a record for the artist at auction, on an estimate of €20,000/30,000; Jean Béraud’s oil on canvas, A la salle Graffard, 1884, which sold for €420,750 ($587,561) against an estimate of €350,000/500,000; and Claude Gillot’s Célébration en l’honneur du dieu pan, which more than tripled the high end of the €30,000/50,000 estimate to bring €150,750 ($210,516), another record for an artist at auction.