NEW YORK—Several works in the 19th-century European paintings sales garnered strong prices at a typically quiet auction-market period that stretches from the end of the major, early, May New York auctions to the start of the London Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions each June. Sotheby’s sale in London, on June 11, brought a total of £6.5 million ($10 million) and was led by a group of works by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, for whom a new auction record was set. Otherwise, overall sale rates were weak, with just 70, or 49 percent, of the 144 lots finding buyers. By value, the sale realized 65 percent.
The Christie’s June 12 sale, also held in London, but with the inclusion of Orientalist paintings, realized £5.1 million ($7.8 million) for 98 lots offered. Of these, 51, or 52 percent, were sold. By value, the sale realized 65 percent.
The record-setting Hammershøi at Sotheby’s was a painting of the artist’s wife in a sparse, white interior of the apartment they resided in. Ida Reading a Letter, 1899, sold for £1.7 million ($2.7 million), compared with an estimate of £500,000/700,000. It had last been offered at auction at Christie’s London in March 1990—where the present consignor had acquired it—for a hammer price of £150,000 ($244,050). The previous auction record for a Hammershøi work was the £590,400 paid in 2006 for Interior with easel, Bredgade, ca. 1910.
Four other works by Hammershøi, all from different private collections, accounted for the next highest lots. These included Interior with Two Candles, 1904, which sold for £1.1 million ($1.7 million), compared with an estimate of £400,000/600,000; Ida in an Interior, 1904, which sold for £668,450 ($1 million), compared with an estimate of £250,000/350,000; Ida Standing at a Desk, 1900, which sold for £457,250 ($711,207), on an estimate of £200,000/300,000; and Strandgade with Christians Kirke in the Background, 1907–8, which realized £361,250 ($561,888), on an estimate of £100,000/150,000.
Commenting on the group of works, Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Sotheby’s head of Denmark, called it “the perfect storm of five top-quality works from different collections, supported by a wide spread of international bidders.” She added that all five of the works were “completely fresh to the market and in excellent condition.” Together, the works accounted for £4.3 million ($6.7 million), or more than half of the overall sale total.
Other top lots were sold in or near presale estimates, such as Spanish artist Hermenegildo Anglada-Camarasa’s Finca Mallorquina, 1925, which brought £229,250 ($356,575) on an estimate of £200,000/300,000, and Italian painter Telemaco Signorini’s Idle Hours at Riomaggiore, which sold for £157,250 ($244,587), falling within the £130,000/180,000 estimate.
However, German painter Karl Blechen’s landscape painting, Forest Interior with Pond, sold for £109,250 ($169,927), far higher than the £20,000/30,000 estimate.
Topping Christie’s sale were two works by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida: Pescadores, Barcas varadas, Valencia, 1912, sold for £937,250 ($1.4 million), compared with an estimate of £500,000/800,000, to a private US buyer; and Pescador de quisquillas, Valencia, 1908, sold for £481,250 ($744,012) to an Asian collector.
A record for an oil sketch by Eugène Delacroix was achieved when Apollo slays python, 1850, sold for £361,250 ($558,492), compared with an estimate of £300,000/500,000.
Christie’s specialist Alexandra McMorrow said the sale saw “strong international bidding on the top lots with particular interest” in the paintings by Sorolla y Bastida.
Another of his works, El Tío Pancha, 1907, also figured among the top lots. The piece sold for £181,250 ($280,212) on an estimate of £150,000/250,000.
The sale also featured Orientalist art from the collection of Marc and Victoria Sursock, including scenes depicting India by Edwin Lord Weeks. Of these, the top lot was an oil painting, Persian Horse Dealer, Bombay, 1880s, which realized £337,250 ($521,388), compared with an estimate of £150,000/200,000, followed by his Fort of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, which sold for £265,250 ($412,464) on an estimate of £200,000/300,000.