PARIS—On Dec. 9, Sotheby’s held a sale of Impressionist and modern art, which realized a total of €10.8 million ($15.9 million) for 108 lots offered. Works by Jean Arp, Victor Brauner, Edgar Degas, Raoul Dufy, Moise Kisling, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, Paul Signac, Kees van Dongen and Maurice de Vlaminck all brought strong prices.
The top lots included a 1936 oil portrait of Pablo Picasso by Dora Maar, estimated at €120,000/180,000, which fetched €480,750 ($706,702). Contrastes sur fond rouge, 1952, a painting by Léger, surpassed the high estimate of €650,000 to sell for €696,750 ($1 million), becoming the top lot of the sale. The Acrobats, 1935, an oil on panel by Picabia, sold well beyond expectations, fetching €744,750 ($1.1 million), far surpassing the estimate of €350,000/500,000.
An oil landscape painting by Chaim Soutine, Paysage, 1918, exceeded its high estimate of €250,000 to sell for €480,750 ($706,700) to a Russian collector. Two bronze sculptures by Degas, Femme regardant la plante de son pied droit (troisième étude), and Cheval faisant une descente de main, sold for €276,750 ($406,400) each, against identical estimates of €200,000/300,000. According to the catalogue, the sculptures were conceived between 1881 and 1895 and cast between 1919 and 1937 in editions of 22.
A landscape by Marquet, Marseille, le vieux port, 1917, sold for €108,750 ($159,860) on an €80,000/120,000 estimate.
Works on Paper Surpass Expectations
The auction also featured numerous works on paper, which largely exceeded their high estimates. This was true of several Picasso ink drawings, including one, Giorgione, ca. 1916, that sold for €101,550 ($149,280) against an estimate of €20,000/30,000 .
Tournez rare ou sirènes, ca. 1919, an oil, ink, pencil and gouache on cardboard by Picabia, sold for €504,750 ($741,980) on a €300,000/500,000 estimate. La Résolution, 1938, a tempera painting on paper by Wassily Kandinsky, sold for €264,750 ($389,200) against an estimate of €140,000/180,000.
A 1911 two-sided self-portrait by Léon Spilliaert in Conté crayon, charcoal, pastel and wax on cardboard, had been estimated at €180,000/200,000, and sold for a much higher price of €300,750 ($442,100). A 1942 charcoal self-portrait by Balthus from the Pierre Matisse estate, brought in €180,750 ($265,700), several times its estimate of €30,000/40,000. Grand intérieur à la chaise (stampa), 1954, a pencil drawing by Alberto Giacometti estimated at €40,000/60,000, was sold for €114,750 ($168,700). And Portrait de femme, 1936, an ink drawing by Henri Matisse, sold for €89,550 ($131,640), clearing the high estimate of €70,000 by a large margin.
Uneven Demand at Tajan Imp/Mod Sale
The day before, Tajan held a sale of Impressionist and modern art that met with mixed demand, reflecting, in part, continuing caution on the part of collectors. The sale featured a range of Surrealist and School of Paris works, and even some German Expressionism, and realized a total of €1.54 million ($2.3 million). Of the 49 lots offered, 27, or 55 percent, were sold.
The top lot of the evening was La lisière de l’adolescence, 1961, a dark, lyrical oil by Czech artist Maria Germinova (Toyen). The painting sold for €137,029 ($201,400), more than quadrupling its estimate of €20,000/30,000. The painting, which alludes to the myth of Leda and the Swan, depicts a young woman lying down, her face transformed into an orchid and her body becoming that of a swan.
Among the other top sales of the evening was Petite panthère assise, 1912, a bronze sculpture with black patina by Rembrandt Bugatti. It sold for €176,684 ($260,000), surpassing its high estimate of €150,000. Other sculptures that sold include two posthumous casts of bronze portrait busts by Honoré Daumier: Horace-François-Bastine Sébastiani, Comte della Porta ou Le fat, and Claude Baillot ou L’infatué de soi, estimated at €10,000/15,000 apiece, sold for €10,200 each.
Other sales include Ordre des oiseaux, 1962, a gouache and pencil on paper in shades of blue by Georges Braque, which was sold for €25,501 ($37,500) on an estimate of €20,000/30,000. Nu agenouillé sur canapé bleu, 1932, a meticulous painting of a nude on a blue sofa by Kisling (1891–1953), a Polish-born painter who settled in Paris, sold for €68,873 ($101,240), within its estimate of €60,000/80,000. Nu allongé, 1942, another nude by the same artist, sold for €16,576 ($24,360), falling below the estimate of €20,000/30,000, and Mona Luisa, 1952, a portrait of a young woman, also by Kisling, fetched €50,285 ($74,000), within its estimate of €50,000/ 60,000.
Work by Russian-born painter Serge Charchoune (1888–1975) met with similar success. Nature morte puriste à la pipe, ca. 1927–28, a still life, sold for €68,873 ($101,243), well within its estimate of €60,000/80,000.
A 1953 still-life drawing with artichokes and a bottle by French painter Bernard Buffet took in €14,280 ($21,000) against an estimate of €8,000/12,000. A 1946 still life with a lemon and orange by French painter Youla (Jules) Chapoval sold for €11,685 ($17,800), within the estimate of €8,000/12,000. An oil painting depicting a wooded French landscape by Emmanuel de la Villeon sold slightly below its €12,000/15,000 estimate for €11,730 ($17,243). Jacques Villon’s Bouquet of Flowers, 1946, an oil painting on paper estimated at €6,000/8,000, fetched slightly less than its low estimate, selling for €5,100 ($7,500). Chevaux en liberté, n.d., a gouache and pastel drawing of performing show horses by Jean Dufy (1888–1964) estimated at €15,000/ 20,000, sold for €16,576 ($24,400).
A 1930 oil-on-panel landscape, Rolleboise, La côte et l’innondation, by French social realist Maximilien Luce, known as one of the founders of Pointillism, was sold for €8,925 ($13,120), exceeding its high estimate of €8,000. The Cellist, an oil by Claude Weisbuch (b. 1927), a French artist of Romanian origins known for his depictions of movement—and for whom music is a recurring subject—sold for €4,462 ($6,560) on an estimate of €3,000/4,000. A still life by Pinchus Krémègne (1890–1981), an artist of Russian origin who belonged to the School of Paris, just passed its low estimate of €5,000, selling for €5,100 ($7,500).
Other works by Chapoval, who died in 1951, at the age of 32, sold well: A 1947 oil painting of rooftops sold for €10,710 ($15,700) on an estimate of €4,000/6,000; Le petit déjeuner, 1945, a still life in oil of a breakfast table, sold for €10,200 ($15,000), within its estimate of €8,000/12,000; and Profil gris, 1948, sold for €3,690 ($5,424) on an estimate of €3,000/5,000.
Several important lots remained unsold, however. These included watercolors by Léger, the highest-valued of which was estimated at €15,000/20,000; drawings by Amedeo Modigliani (one, a 1917 portrait of the French painter Michel Kikoine, had a high estimate of €70,000); and a Matisse drawing of a seated woman, ca. 1944, estimated at €160,000/200,000. Also unsold were two oil paintings by Auguste Renoir, each estimated at €200,000/300,000.