PARIS—Three sales held by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and ArtCurial that coincided with the city’s prestigious Old Master drawing fair, the Salon du Dessin, pointed to a lively and vibrant market for Old Master through modern drawings. Ketty Gottardo, director of the department of Old Master and 19th-century drawings at Christie’s France, said: “Old Master and 19th-century drawings once again inspired vivid interest in international collectors, who expressed a particular taste for masterpieces from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as drawings by Claude Lorrain.”
Blue Chip Artists Bolster Sotheby’s Book Sale
On March 28, Sotheby’s Paris, in collaboration with auctioneers Binoche & Giquello, sold an ensemble of masterpieces of modern illustrated books by the likes of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti and Fernand Léger, from the Librairie R. & B.L. Livres Illustrés Modernes, a legendary Parisian bookseller.
Demand for the works was robust; of the 189 lots offered, the auction was 98 percent sold by value and 97.9 percent sold by lot. The overall total for the sale was €4.5 million
A record was set for the top lot of the sale, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France, a rare work dated 1913 by Sonia Delaunay, in collaboration with Blaise Cendrars, and featuring a mosaic binding by Paul Bonet. It sold for €312,750 ($418,234), well above the estimate of €40,000/60,000.
The second-highest lot was Joan Miró’s collaboration with Paul Eluard. A toute épreuve, 1958, which brought together 80 original colored woodcuts by Miró and a patterned binding fashioned from mosaics of different types of rare wood. It sold for €228,750 ($305,903), compared with an estimate of €40,000/60,000. And Matisse’s album of 34 preparatory drawings and sketches, 1930, sold for €105,750 ($140,615), against an estimate of €50,000/70,000.
Several works by Picasso were among the sale’s top-selling lots, including a version of Honoré de Balzac’s Le Chef d’Oeuvre inconnu, 1931, accompanied by 13 Picasso etchings and an original drawing. It sold for €186,750 ($249,737), surpassing its estimate of €100,000/150,000. The book also contained a handwritten dedication by the artist. The first book illustrated by Picasso, André Salmon’s Poèmes, 1905, one of only 25 copies and featuring a rare proof of his drypoint etching of Les Deux Saltimbanques, sold for €168,750 ($225,666), doubling the low end of its €80,000/120,000 estimate.
Private Collection Pushes Up Prices
On March 28, Artcurial in Paris held a sale of Old Master and 19th-century drawings, many from the collection of Jacques Thuillier, a French art historian who specialized in art from the 17th and 19th centuries. The sale totaled €2 million ($2.7 million), clearing the estimate of €1 million/1.5 million. More than 70 percent of the 238 lots offered found buyers.
The two top lots were 19th-century works, including Victor Hugo’s Souvenir de Belgique, 1857, a small-format, brown-ink cityscape with a large spot of blue watercolor in the sky. The work sold for €447,547 ($597,269), compared with an estimate of €100,000/150,000, and set a record for a drawing by the artist. The other, Eugene Delacroix’s 16-page album of drawings, including a study inspired by Géricault’s Radeau de la Méduse, self-portraits and sketches for Delacroix’s canvas Le Massacre de Scio. The album sold for €311,235 ($415,356), several times its estimate of €40,000/60,000.
Other drawings that sold well included L’avocat, a work in watercolor and gouache by Honoré Daumier, which sold within the €80,000/120,000 estimate for €100,571 ($134,216), and The Presentation in the Temple, by Michel Corneille the Younger, a brown wash drawing heightened with white pencil, which sold for €75 787 ($101,141), surpassing the estimate of €10,000/15,000.
Christie’s Paris held its drawing sale on March 29. Of the 215 lots offered, 158 sold, representing 73 percent by lot and 96 percent by value. The auction yielded €2.95 million ($3.9 million).
The top lot of the sale, Claude Lorrain’s recto-verso drawing, a landscape with a farm in the mountains on one side and a study on the other, sold for €445,000 ($593,408), nearly ten times its low estimate of €50,000/70,000. Another recto-verso drawing by Lorrain, a figure study on one side and boats on the other, executed between 1635 and 1640, sold for €277,000 ($363,380), against an estimate of €60,000/80,000.
An album by Count Edward Raczynski, a Polish diplomat who became Poland’s president, sold for €313,000 ($417,386) on an estimate of €60,000/80,000. Two large drawings by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo from his “Illustrated Bible” series, La vocation des fils de Zébédéé (Matthew 4:21–22), fetched €181,000 ($241,364) on a €100,000/150,000 estimate. Another Tiepolo, L’Agonie du Christ à Gethsémani (Luc 22:43), with the same estimate, sold for €139,000 ($185,357).
And a study of a sleeping woman by François Boucher, Etude de jeune femme endormie, more than doubled its low estimate of €60,000/80,000, selling for €151,000 ($201,359).