PARIS— The collection of Paul-Louis Weiller, a famous French war hero, aviator, engineer, industrialist and philanthropist, was sold at Drouot by the French auction house Gros & Delettrez in four events held April 5–8. By all accounts, the sale was a major success. The total came to €23.8 million ($33.3 million), more than doubling the estimate of €8 million/10 million. Of the 725 lots offered, 93 percent sold, with 7 lots sold for over €1 million ($1.4 million) each, including a Chinese vase for some €2 million ($2.8 million).
Weiller, known as “the Commander,” died in 1993 aged 100. He was born into two prominent entrepreneurial families, both with financial interests in European railways, electricity and cables.
Much of his estate had already been auctioned in 1998, with great success. The works from this auction came from three of his properties, including a well-known town house in central Paris, the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, and brought together a small part of his collections of fine art, Old Master drawings and paintings, and ornate pieces of furniture, decorative arts, jewelry, and manuscripts.
Several paintings fetched surprisingly good results, including a portrait of a young man in a beret by the court painter Corneille de La Haye, known as Corneille de Lyon (1500/1510–1575). Estimated at €60,000/80,000, it sold for a final price of €612,500 ($857,500). Another, a picture of a woman surrounded by her three children, by Cornelis de Vos (ca. 1584–1651), the Flemish Baroque portrait painter, sold for a hammer price of €230,000 ($322,000), meeting its estimate of €150,000/200,000. A painting, by Albert Cuyp, Milking scene along a river, with a milkmaid and a large cow, undated but believed to have been created between 1650 and 1655, was estimated at €600,000/800,000, and sold for a final price of €975,000 ($1.4 million), setting an auction record for the artist.
A portrait by Jean Marc Nattier (1685–1766), believed to be of Mademoiselle Chamisot, 1730, sold for a hammer price of €142,000 ($198,800), surpassing its estimate of €60,000/80,000. A portrait of a count, Portrait du comte Grigori Grigorievitch Orloff, believed to have been executed in 1762–63, fetched four times its estimate of €40,000/60,000, selling for a hammer price of €280,000 ($392,000). The canvas, believed to have been painted by Fiodor Rotokov (1735–1808), had previously been attributed to Louis Tocqué.
One of the auction’s most surprising results was the price paid for a painting whose authorship has been debated for over 200 years, thought to be by “Antoine Watteau’s circle.” Cinq personnages de la comédie italienne, shows a scene of five characters from the Commedia dell’Arte, ca. 1720. Estimated at €40,000/60,000, it sold for a final price of €1.3 million ($1.8 million).
Other sales included a bust by Emile Antoine Bourdelle (1861–1929), ca. 1901–2, in bronze with green patina (estimate: €2,500/3,000) that sold for a hammer price of €17,500 ($24,500), and a Pierre Bonnard painting of a nude model with a white shirt, Le modele et la chemise blanche, ca. 1905, that sold for a hammer price of €218,000 ($305,200), well beyond the estimate of €100,000/150,000.