NEW YORK—Ahead of the major spring Impressionist and modern art sales taking place in New York in the first week of May, 19th-century paintings drew strong prices at auctions in New York and London, including at sales of Orientalist art.
The highlight of the auctions was the record-setting Sotheby’s sale of Ivan Aivasovsky’s View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus, 1856. Estimated at £1.2 million/1.8 million, the painting, a view of a busy seaport, realized £3.2 million ($5.2 million) to mark a new record for the Russian painter. Claude Piening, specialist and head of the sale, said there was a wide range of bidders for the work.
According to Sotheby’s catalogue, Aivasovsky first visited Constantinople in 1845 as part of his duties as official painter to the Russian Admiralty, a role he was appointed to in 1837 by Emperor Nicholas I. The painting was completed in 1856, “at the height of the artist’s career.”
The previous artist auction record, in British pounds, was £2.7 million, realized at Christie’s London in 2007 for another of his seascape paintings, American shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar, 1873, which had an estimate of £400,000/600,000. The US dollar equivalent, based on the exchange rate at the time, of $5.34 million, is higher than the recently achieved dollar price.
Overall, the Orientalist sale realized £5.6 million ($9 million) for 33 lots offered. Of these, 23, or 70 percent, were sold. By value, the sale achieved just 58 percent.
Also a record was the £325,250 ($524,661) achieved for French painter Jean Discart’s L’Atelier de poterie, Tanger, which depicts an artist painting pottery. Estimated at £150,000/200,000, it roughly doubled in value for the collector, who acquired it for $224,500 at Sotheby’s New York in October 2009, when it carried an estimate of $100,000/150,000.
Piening said, “bidding was overall very international, with interest from America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East,” indicating the “ongoing strength of this market.”
Other top lots included Italian artist Giulio Rosati’s The Dance, which sold within the £200,000/300,000 estimate, for £289,250 ($465,960). Eugène Fromentin’s painting Le Simoun (estimate: £180,000/250,000) sold for £217,250 ($350,000), as did Boris Anisfeld’s colorful Biblical portrait titled Rebecca (estimate: £200,000/300,000).
In the same week, Sotheby’s also held sales of Islamic and Ottoman art, in addition to a contemporary Turkish art sale, for a total of £16.3 million ($26.3 million) for the week. The top lot of the Turkish contemporary art sale, on April 26, was a colorful Abstract Composition, 1952, by Nejad Melih Devrim, which sold for £735,650 ($1.2 million), on an estimate of £250,000/350,000. The painting had been in the same private collection since 1987. In all, the Turkish art sale realized £1.5 million ($2.5 million).
Bouguereau Leads Christie’s
The top lot at Christie’s 19th-Century European paintings sale in New York, on April 23, was William Adolphe Bouguereau’s Idylle: famille antique, which had been in the same private collection since 1951, and sold for $782,500, clearing the $400,000/600,000 estimate, to a private European buyer.
A new auction record was set for French painter Louis Marie de Schryver when Rue Royale, Paris, sold for $682,500 (estimate: $250,000/450,000) to a US dealer. Also a record was the $218,500 paid for Dutch artist Arnoldus Bloemers’s 1840 still life of flowers in a vase (estimate: $140,000/180,000).
Eugène Delacroix’s Portrait de Fougerat, ca. 1818, also realized $218,500, well above the $60,000/80,000 estimate.
Two works by John Atkinson Grimshaw also figured in the top lots, including Reekie, Glasgow, which realized $314,500 on an estimate of $160,000/200,000, while Under the Beeches sold for $290,500, against a higher estimate of $220,000/280,000.
Christie’s head of the department, James Hastie, said the sale drew “deep bidding across the board from America, Europe and Asia,” with all of the top lots exceeding their high estimates.
In all, the auction brought $6.3 million with 58, or 71 percent, of the 82 lots offered finding buyers. By value, the sale realized 77 percent.