LONDON—The series of auctions of Old Master and 19th-century art held at Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s July 6–8 brought in a total of £115.5million ($173.2million), including part-two day sales, comfortably within the £90million/134million estimate. The result was a 50 percent improvement over that of last year’s Old Master and 19th-century auctions.
Commenting on the strength of the sales, Richard Knight, Christie’s international cohead of Old Masters and 19th-century art, said that “the market for classical European art continues to produce solid results.” In the packed saleroom he noted “balanced, steady bidding, realizing the third-highest total for the category at Christie’s London.” Knight added that ten works were sold at prices over £1million.
Alex Bell, Sotheby’s cochairman of Old Master paintings, said the upward trend seen in 2009 continued this season, as “collectors in this field continue to respond very favorably to paintings with strong images, that are fresh to the market, are in good condition and are well estimated.” Bell said “participation from private collectors—from all over Europe, Russia and North America—was notably higher than usual and buyers came from some 25 different countries, showing the international appeal of this market.”
Sotheby’s led this series, realizing a total of £62.5million ($94.5million) in four sales, while Christie’s realized £49.7million ($74.5million) for three sales, and Bonhams’s single sale took in £3.4million ($4million). Bonhams offered 84 lots, of which 65, or 77 percent, were sold. A highlight of the sale was a portrait Bonhams said was the last privately owned portrait of General James Wolfe, from the studio of Joseph Highmore (1692–1780). Wolfe was a soldier from Kent, England, who led the British assault on Quebec in 1759, according to the catalogue. Estimated at £80,000/120,000, the painting sold for £400,900 ($608,000) to a Canadian buyer. The top lot of the sale was a still life of flowers on copper, 1652, by Jan van Kessel the Elder (1626–79). It sold for £804,000 ($1.2million) against an estimate of £800,000/1.2 million.