PARIS—On Nov. 21, at Drouot in Paris, auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr organized a sale of the estate of Kimiyo Horiuchi Foujita, the late widow of Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, a painter and printmaker born in Tokyo who settled in France in his late twenties and died in 1968. Kimiyo Foujita, who was his fifth wife, died in 2009.
There were more than 350 works by the artist in the sale, including oil paintings, paintings in gouache, drawings and ink washes which came from her personal collection. All of the lots were sold, bringing a total of €3.6 million ($4.9 million).
Foujita’s paintings—often delicate images of cats or beautiful women—combine the tradition of Japanese ink drawing with a more painterly approach. While his name has been somewhat forgotten over time, Foujita was a celebrity in Paris, where he lived in Montparnasse in the 1920s, and was befriended by the likes of Amedeo Modigliani, Chaïm Soutine, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso. Gertrude Stein modeled for him.
The top lot in the sale was an oil painting of the Parisian flea market, Le Marché aux Puces, Dimanche, 1952, which fetched €206,250 ($278,825), against an estimate of €120,000/150,000.
A number of lots far exceeded their estimates, as with Deux jeunes filles, 1955, a mounted oil painting on cardboard dedicated “To Kimiyo.” The work, which depicts two young girls, sold for a solid €90,000 ($121,670), more than ten times its high estimate of €6,000/8,000. Mendiant et sa fille, 1955, a painting of a beggar and his daughter, sold for €62,500 ($84,500) on an estimate of €6,000/8,000. A watercolor and ink drawing of a young girl with a cat surpassed its estimate of €12,000/15,000, to sell for €77,500 ($104,771). Another of the same subject, the undated Jeune femme a la coiffe jaune et au chat, topped its estimate of €12,000/15,000, fetching €97,500 ($131,800). A similar work, also in oil on cardboard, Jeune femme a la coiffe rouge et au chat, sold for €92,500 ($125,049), on an estimate of €12,000/15,000.
An oil on canvas of an old-fashioned rocking horse on wheels, fabricated especially for the son of Napoléon III by Hermès, entitled Le cheval du fils de Napoléon III, Hermès, 1951, was auctioned for €68,750 ($92,941), far surpassing its estimate of €12,000/15,000. A work on paper, in ink wash and watercolor, of a young girl with potatoes, sold for €70,000 ($94,631), more than five times its low estimate of €12,000/15,000. On the same estimate, another ink and watercolor drawing of a girl with a cat sold for €77,500 ($104,770).
Foujita’s prints also sold well. Three color lithographs of a little girl with bread, Fillette au pain, 1954, sold for €13,125 ($17,743), more than ten times the estimate of €1,200/1,500. Mère et deux enfants sous une arche, 1964, a set of 17 color lithographs depicting a mother and children under an arch, sold for €27,500 ($37,176), on an estimate of €7,500/8,000. A series of eight black and gray lithographs depicting two gray cats, Deux chats, sold for €25,000 ($33,800), nearly five times the low estimate of €5,500/6,500.
Saltiel Collection Sails Past Estimates
On Nov. 16, at Drouot, Montaigne, J.J. Mathias, Baron Ribeyre & Associés, Farrando Lemoine auctioned modern art from the estate of the private collection of Léon Saltiel and his wife, Raymonde. Overall, 97 percent of the 119 lots on offer were sold, fetching a total of €2.5 million ($3.4 million), clearing the €1.5 million presale estimate. Profits from the sale will go to the League Against Cancer, Paris.
The top lot of the sale, Nu couché, 3/9/67, a reclining nude by Picasso in pencil, watercolor and gouache, brought €550,232 ($747,100), well surpassing its estimate of €60,000/80,000. Jean Dubuffet’s Paysage pétrifié, janvier 1952, New York, an oil on canvas mounted on panel, brought €471,627 ($640,370), against an unpublished estimate of €300,000/350,000. Joan Miró’s work also achieved solid results: his Peinture, été, 1936, fetched €399,069 ($541,852) also against an unpublished estimate of €300,000/350,000. Two Compositions in pencil and charcoal by Miró, executed in 1930, brought €133,023 ($180,617) and €120,930 ($164,198), each against an estimate of €40,000/50,000.
An oil on canvas by André Masson, Le peintre, 1937, sold for €206,790 ($280,000), meeting the high end of the €150,000/200,000 estimate.
Masson’s L’orange, 1925, sold for €166,884 ($226,593), against an estimate of €120,000/150,000. An ink drawing by Fernand Léger, L’enfant à l’accordéon, 1951, sold for €120,930 ($164,198), on an estimate of €30,000/35,000.
Among the more contemporary works were Study for bedroom painting (Daniele), 1971, by Tom Wesselmann, a painting that sold for €125,767 ($170,765), some ten times the high end of the €10,000/12,000 estimate. Elaine Sturtevant’s Raysse, peinture à haute tension, 1968–9, an acrylic and neon on canvas, sold for €62,884 ($85,400) including premium, meeting the estimate of €60,000/80,000. A record was also set during the auction for French artist Iván Tovar for his work Chant d’amour, Paris, 1977, which sold for €25,395 ($34,500), surpassing its estimate of €15,000/20,000.
Medieval Art Trove Triples Expectations
On Nov. 16, Christie’s Paris sold a small selection of medieval treasures from the collection of Jean-Joseph Marquet de Vasselot, a distinguished French scholar, art historian, curator at the Louvre and director of the Cluny Museum in Paris. The collection had, in large part, been assembled by his family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ensemble of 24 exceptional works—ivories, enamels, gilt-bronze, an illuminated Gothic manuscript and pressed-leather cutlery cases—had an overall presale estimate of €2 million/3 million and totaled €9.4 million ($12.7 million), far exceeding expectations. Of the 24 lots offered, 22, or 92 percent, were sold. By value the sale realized 99.8 percent.
The top lot in the sale was a carved ivory group of the Virgin and Child Enthroned, Paris, ca. 1250–80, remarkable for its size, delicacy and excellent condition. The piece sold for €6.3 million ($8.5 million), compared with a presale estimate of €1 million/2 million, setting a record for a medieval object sold at auction. Other top sellers included a rectangular, carved ivory book cover depicting the Crucifixion, Constantinople, dating from the 10th century. It surpassed its high estimate of €300,000/500,000 to sell for €577,000 ($776,560).
Observers said a gothic illuminated manuscript on vellum, 28 pages from an antiphonal for Franciscan use, in Latin, from Flanders, ca. 1310, was a “superb example,” and it sold for €529,000 ($711,959), more than doubling the low end of the €250,000/350,000 estimate.
An Artful Eye
In late October, Christie’s Paris held a sale titled, “The Eye of a Poet,” an auction of the collection of André and Bona Pieyre de Mandiargues. It achieved a total of €1.97 million ($2.7 million). Of 172 lots offered, 138 found buyers. The auction was 80 percent sold by lot and 93 percent sold by value.
The top lot of the sale was a vinyl on canvas painting by Jean Dubuffet, Réchaud-Four à gaz V, 1966, which surpassed its estimate of €250,000/350,000, to sell for €457,000 ($632,945). Dubuffet’s sculpture Savonarole, 1954, sold for €217,000 ($300,545), compared with an estimate of €120,000/150,000. Leonor Fini’s oil on canvas Jeux de jambes dans la clef du rêve, 1936, estimated at €50,000/70,000, brought €361,000 ($499,985). Alberto Burri’s untitled and undated oil on panel from 1952, estimated at €25,000/35,000, sold for €79,000 ($109,415).