NEW YORK—Sotheby’s and Christie’s midseason Old Master sales, both held June 6, pulled in solid totals, with strong prices seen for fresh-to-the-market works, including museum collection offerings and a recently restituted painting. Main sales of Old Master paintings and drawings will be held in London next month.
Christie’s was the leader with a $12.5 million evening sale in which 60, or 61 percent, of 98 lots offered were sold. By value, the sale realized 82 percent.
The star of the sale was a recently restituted painting of Christ Carrying the Cross by Girolamo Romanino. Estimated at $2.5 million/3.5 million, it sold for $4.6 million with premium. The previous record for the artist at auction was $512,502, for Christ and the woman taken into adultery. According to Christie’s, Romanino was active as a painter of frescoes, altarpieces, portraits and private devotional pictures, and mostly worked in northern Italy, including in Padua, Cremona, Trento and Brescia.
By 1900, the painting had passed into the Milan-based Crespi collection and was acquired in a 1914 sale in Paris by Federico Gentili di Giuseppe. When the collector passed away in 1940, the painting was part of a forced sale of his estate, in Paris, in 1941. The painting changed hands again and eventually became part of the collection of the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. However, in June 1999, the court of appeals in Paris nullified the 1941 estate sale, determining that di Giuseppe’s family had been prevented from overseeing the administration of the estate. Afterwards, his heirs pursued the collection and it was ordered restituted by a US District Court in Florida, in February, and returned to the heirs in April.
Also an auction record was the $578,500 paid for Philippe de Champaigne’s The Holy Family with a Sparrow, an oil and gold on panel, laid down on board, that had been estimated at $200,000/300,000. It had recently been rediscovered by Christie’s experts.
Other top lots in the sale included Hubert Robert’s The Ruins and The Old Bridge, a pair of circular framed paintings that sold for $1.9 million, compared with an estimate of $800,000/1.2 million. The Robert works were part of a group of 11 paintings sold by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to benefit its acquisitions fund. All of the paintings found buyers, selling for a total of over $3 million.
Two works by Pieter Breughel II appeared in the top lots, including The Whitsun Bride, an oil on panel that sold for $686,500, more than double the $200,000/300,000 estimate, and The Birdtrap, an oil on panel that sold for $410,500, compared with an estimate of $250,000/350,000.
Also, a painting attributed only to “Studio of Sir Anthony van Dyck,” Portrait of François Langlois, half-length, playing a musette, soared past its $80,000/120,000 estimate to realize $338,500, while another modestly estimated lot with no firm attribution—Four anthropomorphic figures: An allegory of the four seasons by a “follower of Giuseppe Arcimboldo”—leapt to $662,500 on an estimate of $40,000/60,000.
Sotheby’s day sale on June 6 realized $5.2 million and offered 108 lots. The sold-by-lot rate was a relatively weak 58 percent, while, by value, the auction realized 70 percent.
The top lot was a tempera on panel picture of Madonna and Child Enthroned with Six Angels, by the? Pseudo Dalmasio degli Scannabecchi, described by Sotheby’s as “active in Bologna and Pistoia” in the mid-14th Century. Estimated at $250,000/350,000, the work sold for more than double the high estimate, at $794,500.
The second-highest lot, Niccolò Antonio Colantonio’s oil on panel titled Blessed Leonard of Assisi, carried a far lower estimate of $60,000/80,000, but soared to a final price of $554,500.
Several other works soared past presale expectations, including a Paul Theodor van Brussel oil on panel, Still Life of Flowers and Fruits on a Marble Ledge, 1787, which sold for $374,500, compared with an estimate of $150,000/200,000.
Another lot, a pair of oil on panel paintings “attributed to Hans Holbein the Elder” titled Saint Odilia of Alsace and Saint Ursula, sold for $242,500, compared with a relatively modest estimate of $60,000/80,000.
Other top lots that exceeded expectations included Andrea di Niccolò’s pair of tempera on panel paintings, Faith and Charity, which sold for $242,500 on an estimate of $150,000/200,000.