PARIS—This year’s March drawings sales in Paris, overlapping with the annual Salon du Dessin, offered nearly 1,500 lots in total and yielded some €4.25 million ($5.7 million).
The top price paid for an individual drawing was €98,400 ($131,900), for the Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-82) work Christ en croix avec Marie-Madeleine, in ink, chalk and wash, at Christie’s on March 17.
A brown-ink landscape by Jan Lievens went to a European dealer for €86,639 ($116,100) at Piasa on March 18, while Tajan earned €61,674 ($82,600) for Madame Lithographie—an 1895 pastel-and-charcoal drawing by Puvis de Chavannes, on March 16.
Piasa’s sale ran to 162 lots; it brought €366,000 ($490,440) and was 65 percent sold by volume. The next-best price after the Lievens sale was €22,260 ($29,830), for Charles de la Fosse’s Kneeling Woman in colored crayon.
Tajan’s sale consisted of 230 lots, brought €377,000 ($505,180), and and was 47 percent sold by volume. After the Chavannes drawing, the highest price was €58,000 ($79,400), for a pencil drawing by Paul Cézanne, Vénus Accroupie (circa 1880).
A small Édouard Manet oil sketch painted in the winter of 1870 fetched €481,320 ($645,000) at Renaud–Giquello, Paris, on March 16. La gare du chemin de fer de sceaux, signed and dated “Paris 28 XII 1870,” shows a snowbound train station just south of Paris. Manet gave the work to a fellow soldier named Lambert in the National Guard when he was serving as a lieutenant. His Le petit Montrouge, painted the same day, can now be found in the National Museum, Cardiff, Wales.
Christie’s, with 492 lots, staged the longest and most lucrative sale, totaling €3.2 million ($4.24 million)—bolstered by works for which the term “drawing” seemed approximate.
These included a 15th-century gouache-and-gold Italian tarot card attributed to the “Master of the Visconti Tarot” at €280,800 ($376,000); and an array of 26 late-18th-century Italian oil-on-paper studies by Simon Denis that totaled €926,120 ($1.24 million)—led by an undated Sunset at €202,400 ($271,200).
Nicolas Schwed, head of Christie’s international drawings department, said he felt all the Paris sales complemented each other. He reported that “all our major clients were in the room,” but acknowledged that, while nearly all the major works found ready takers, “minor drawings proved more difficult to sell.”
Also at Christie’s, the Louvre paid €156,000 ($209,000) for an album of 28 ink, chalk and wash drawings by French Renaissance architect Jacques Androuet du Cerceau; and €150,000 ($201,000) for a watercolor, Ville Antiqué Assiégée, by Louis Desprez (1743-1804), with chalk, ink and wash highlights.