PARIS—There was a lively market for modern and contemporary art in the Paris salerooms in December, although one of the top prices went to a drawing: Jacques-Louis David’s The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Dead Son, 1787, in pen, black ink and gray wash with white highlights, a study for his giant 1789 canvas in the Louvre, was the most important drawing in Paris before Christmas. It fetched €613,700 ($724,000) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, at Delorme-Collin du Bocage on Dec. 7. (A similar sketch, albeit with several compositional differences, belongs to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.)
Two other Old Master drawings of note: Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s La Bénédiction Paternelle, circa 1769, in ink, wash and pencil, sold for €143,650 ($169,500) at Millon & Associés on Dec. 9; and François Boucher’s pencil-and-red-chalk Venus & Cupid brought €135,650 ($160,000) at Artcurial on Dec.13—part of the Rossignol Collection (devoted mainly to French furniture), which included several 18th-century views of Paris achieving unexpectedly high prices. These were led by the €160,320 ($189,200) paid for Nicolas Raguenet’s Joute des Mariniers entre le Pont Notre-Dame et le Pont au Change, 1756. Pierre-Antoine Demachy’s Place Louis-XV (now Place de la Concorde) realized €148,000 ($174,600).
Giacometti Shines at Artcurial
Alberto Giacometti generated the top price at Artcurial’s sale of modern art on Dec. 5 with a monochrome canvas, Buste d’homme, 1951, that fell to the French trade for €813,900 ($960,000). The sale brought €6.83 million ($8 million) and was 70 percent sold by lot. Five of the top ten works went to the Russian trade, led by Fernand Léger’s 1937 Paysage au Coq Rouge at €470,860 ($550,000). And a Juan Gris pencil Self Portrait (circa 1911-12) was sold to the London trade for a quadruple-estimate €402,250 ($475,000).
Artcurial’s contemporary sale on Dec. 6 fared even better, totaling €7.2 million ($8.5 million), with 83 percent sold by lot. There were record prices here for André Lanskoy—€196,420 ($231,800), paid by a Monaco collector for his 1969 Composition; and for Eduardo Chillida—€207,850 ($245,300), given by the Spanish trade for an untitled 1984 terra-cotta sculpture.
Paris is scarcely renowned as an auction center for contemporary art. Yet December saw saleroom records for several artists, among them Robert Indiana—€1.2 million ($1.42 million) for his 1963 Yield Brother II at Aguttes on Dec. 19.