PARIS—High prices for modern art and Old Masters helped bring the Paris auction year to a strong close. On Dec. 1, for instance, Christie’s obtained the highest price for a painting in France since 1998 when it sold a work by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet, 1944,for €5.2 million ($6.9 million). The sale made a total of €12.8 million ($16.9 million).
The same auction also included several works by Belgium’s Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926): His 1892 charcoal Portrait d’ Emile Verhaerenfetched €180,000 ($239,400), setting a new artist’s record for a work on paper; and his 1911 oil Jeune fille au chapeau de paille soared to €773,600 ($1 million), more than double the €300,000 high estimate. An 1885 Claude Monet snowscape, Entrée de Giverny sous la neige, part of the collection of Professor Rene Kuss that was sold by Christie’s the same day, took €1.4 million ($1.9 million).
The sale of Orientalist paintings at Gros-Delettrez on Dec. 12 yielded auction records for three artists: Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962)—€805,480 ($1.1 million) for L’aouche, depicting a village fête painted in Marrakesh circa 1937-38; Eugene Fromentin (1820-76)—€594,816 ($785,200) for his undated Bateleurs negres dans les tribus; and Germany’s Adolf Schreyer (1828-99)—€470,893 ($621,578) for his undated Standard-Bearer.
Basquiat Work Leads Contemporary Sales
A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88), Bayou, 1984, was the standout lot at the Tajan contemporary sale on Nov. 23, bringing €2 million ($2.6 million). Three other houses alsohad cause for satisfaction: On Dec. 13 Sotheby’s €4.7 million ($6.3 million) auction included a painting by Pierre Soulages (b. 1919), Peinture 16 mars 1955, for €695,200 ($923,600), the second-highest auction price for the artist. The house also claimed the highest price in a decade for Jean Fautrier (1898-1964) when Nu, 1957, sold for €516,000 ($918,700).
Christie’s posted new highs for three artists on Dec. 5: €292,000 ($388,360) for Herve Telemaque’s One of 36,000 Marines, 1965; €258,400 ($343,672) for Daniel Buren’s 1966 Peinture aux formes variables bleues sur tissu rayé blanc et orange; and €191,000 ($254,000) for Kazuo Shiraga’s 1988 Ouka (The Yellow House).
On Dec. 11 ArtCurial offered a collection of ten works by Maurice Esteve (1904–2001). Nine of them sold, all over estimate, for a total of €976,000 ($1.3 million), led by his 1953 Jazz équestre at €356,511 ($470,600).
Little-Known Old Master Fetches $4.1M
Two days later, on Dec. 13, Piasa sold a painting by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), an obscure Portrait of General Meunier (in its original frame), to London dealer Jean-Luc Baroni for €3.1 million ($4.1 million). Meunier married David’s daughter Emilie in 1805, and this 1812 portrait, painted between the general’s return from Spain and departure for Russia, remained in the painter’s family until the present; it had not seen in public since an exhibition in Copenhagen in 1914.
At the same sale a 1783 oil, Portrait of Benjamin Franklin, by French court painter Joseph-Siffred Duplessis (1725-1820), was sold to a U.S. buyer for €378,484 ($500,000). This was a copy by Duplessis of his pastel original, now in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
On Dec. 8 Piasa posted a record price for a Watteau drawing: €561,448 ($741,111) for hissheet of Four Male Head Studies in pencil, wash, stump and brown ink on beige paper. Then, on Dec. 13, Cornette de St-Cyr took €280,066 ($370,000) for an 1806 work in pencil by Jean-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), Portrait d’une jeune fille.
At a remarkable single-lot auction in Brussels on Dec. 7, Pierre Berge & Associés (PBA)sold a five-volume edition of Duhamel du Monceau’s Traite des arbres fruitiers for €2.85 million ($3.7 million) plus premium. That price had nothing to do with Monceau’s fruit-tree treatise and everything to do with the 421 watercolors on vellum, painted circa 1804-09 by Pierre-Antoine Poiteau (1766-1854) and Pierre Jean François Turpin (1775-1840). The volumes were sold via phone to an anonymous private buyer, who, the auctioneer believes, will keep the ensemble intact. It was the highest-ever auction price for an artwork in Belgium.