NEW YORK—ARTnewsletter has learned that the Las Vegas casino mogul and art collector Steve Wynn was the buyer of Johannes Vermeer’s A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, which will be shown in the Wynn Gallery at the opening of the new $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort on April 28.
Wynn bought the 8-by-10-inch painting, circa 1670, for £16.2 million ($30 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in London last July (see ANL, 7/20/04). He declined to comment for this article.
The painting was previously considered a fake and had been forgotten for 50 years. Eleven years of research by Sotheby’s on behalf of Belgian owner Baron Frederic Rolin, who died before the sale took place, had established that pigments used in the work were typical of Vermeer, the style of hair and dress could date the work to 1670, and the canvas was cut from the same bolt of cloth as Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, in the Louvre, Paris.
ARTnewsletter has learned Wynn told a close friend that, immediately after the auction on July 7, he had taken the painting to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was exhibited from August 11, 2004, until mid-April as a loan from a private collection. According to this source, Wynn said, “‘I have a soft spot in my heart for Philadelphia, because when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, I lived across the street from the Philadelphia Museum of Art during my sophomore, junior and senior years.’”
Wynn has acquired a number of major artworks in the past few years, all of which will also be shown at the Wynn Gallery, sources further report. Among these is a painting by Pablo Picasso, Nature morte aux tulips, which Wynn privately purchased from French billionaire and Christie’s owner François Pinault. The purchase price is not known. However, the same work fetched $28.6 million when it was auctioned at a Christie’s evening sale in May 2000.
Last May, at a Sotheby’s American paintings sale in New York, Wynn gave $8.8 million (estimate: $5/7 million) for John Singer Sargent’s 1885 portrait Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife, one of several works sold by the auctioneer from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney.
Among other major recent purchases by Wynn: a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes, 1634, bought for £6.9 million ($11.3 million) at Sotheby’s London in July 2003; a 1594 oil-on-copper landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder, bought privately in London; and a 1983 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, Napoleonic Stereotype circa ’44. Sources say he also bought back from the Bellagio Hotel an Edgar Degas pastel, Dancer Taking Her Bow, and two paintings by Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro.
Other important paintings already in the collection of Wynn and his wife, Elaine, include Picasso’s Le Rêve, 1932, which Wynn bought privately in 2000; Vincent van Gogh’s Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat, 1890; Henri Matisse’s The Persian Robe, 1940; and Paul Gauguin’s Bathers, 1902.