PARIS—One of the most lucrative modern art sales here in recent years saw Aguttes total €16.4 million ($18.5 million) on Dec. 20, with 14 artworks fetching more than $200,000 each. In the lead was the painting Lobster & Cat on a Beach, 1965, by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), which fell for €4.33 million, or $5.7 million (estimate: x4/6 million).
Two pictures by Alfred Sisley (1839-99) also took off: Gust of Wind—May Morning, circa 1890, brought €2.26 million ($2.9 million); and St-Mammes Before the Summer, 1883, made €1.9 million ($2.5 million). A small Surrealist work by Yves Tanguy (1900-55), Ni Rides, Ni Vents, 1937, was acquired for €830,300 ($1.1 million).
Strong prices were given for an array of Russian pictures, including: Bain, ca. 1914, by Ivan Puni (1892-1956), which went for €433,200 ($567,500). Two works by landscapist Ivan Choultse (1877-1932) leaped ahead of their estimates: Calm Before the Storm, for €132,400, or $173,400 (estimate: €25,000/30,000); and a 1903 Snowscape for €122,700, or $160,700 (estimate: €40,000/50,000).
Chemin Boisé, effet de neige, an early view of the forest of Marly, near Paris, in the snow, ca. 1869, by Claude Monet (1840-1926), fetched €962,700 ($1.26 million).
Meanwhile, a thousand letters written to Monet from 1879-1925, consigned by his descendants, took €1.3 million ($1.7 million) at Artcurial on Dec. 13, with a top price of €30,800 paid for an 1895 letter from Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). More than a third of the 330 lots were bought by the French state, 50 of them for the Musée d’Orsay.
A record price was tendered for a work on paper by Francis Picabia (1879-1953) at CalmelsCohen on Dec. 18: €894,100, or $1.16 million (estimate: €300,000/500,000), for Optophone I, in ink, watercolor and graphite, ca. 1922, once owned by fellow artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). Two other Picabias sold well: L’Ombre, ca. 1928, for €563,900 ($733,070); and a ca. 1937 portrait, Greta Garbo,based on a magazine photograph, for €147,300.
Old Masters in Paris in December included three canvases by Hubert Robert (1733-1808) that sold for more than double their high estimates at Thierry de Maigret on Dec. 8, led by the oval Grand Escalier dans un Parc, 1806, at €238,300 ($314,556). A 1797 oil-on-panel painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), Portrait de Jean Tupinier, depicting the French judge and parliamentarian, climbed to €213,600 ($277,680) at Artcurial on Dec. 19.
An eight-lot collection of late-17th-century French bronzes generated huge prices at Piasa on Dec. 20, led by €1.4 million for two allegorical reclining male figures cast around 1700 after much larger originals from ancient Rome, embodying the Nile (the original is now in the Vatican) and the Tiber (the original is in the Louvre); and the Louvre paid €595,800 ($780,500) for a statuette by Corneille van Cleve (1646-1732), Leda and the Swan, ca. 1700. A female statuette representing Air, after Etienne Le Hongre (1628-90), culled €235,500 or $304,000; and two figures cast after originals by Michel Anguier (1613-86) also fared well: Pluto for €197,800 ($257,100); and Amphitrite for €98,200 ($127,600).