There was high drama at Christie's latest decorative arts sale in London, when half the £3.1m total came from this Glasgow school panel by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, which sold to an American collector for £1.5m (plus premium).
The 3ft 3in (1m) square iconic panel, is one of two painted in
gesso on hessian that were created by Macdonald Mackintosh for the
Glasgow group's stand at the landmark 1902 International
Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin.
This example, titled The White Rose and the Red Rose,
and its companion, The Heart of the Rose, both featured in
the stand's Rose Boudoir. They were offered here by an American who
acquired them at Sotheby's New York in 1991 for $80,000 and
$120,000 (then £53,675 and £80,512).
Again offered separately, each was estimated at £200,000-300,000
and initially when this example was offered, it looked as though
Christie's estimate would not be far off.
But a masterful rostrum performance at the sale on April 30 from
auctioneer Philippe Garner turned the tide.
Bidding opened at £140,000 and London dealer Michael Whiteway,
acting for an unnamed institution, stepped up to the plate first.
He dropped out at £360,000 to the American collector, who was
bidding via the phone, and it looked as though the panel might sell
at £380,000, but another phone, manned by Christie's Impressionist
specialist Matthew Stephenson, decided to step in.
Over the space of several long minutes Mr Garner managed to inch
these two phones, bidding in increments as low as £10,000 for much
of the time, up to the final £1.5m, bringing down the hammer to a
well-deserved round of applause.
With this price achieved, all eyes were on the second panel.
Would there be another battle or, having lost the opportunity to
secure both, would the underbidder let the successful buyer take
the second relatively cheaply?
Things panned out rather differently. The successful purchaser
seemed happy with one Glasgow school panel and did not even contest
It was left to Michael Whiteway and the other phone to vie for
The Heart of the Rose at a much more muted level, with
Whiteway again unsuccessful, bowing out when his competitor bid
The same phone was left with money to spare for the sculpture
section, paying out some multi-estimate prices for Chiparus bronze
and ivory dancers.
The £1.5m paid for The White Rose and Red Rose
constitutes a new auction record for any Scottish work of art and
is far more than for any previous work by the artist.
Nonetheless, the price compares favourably with the
multi-million pound prices commanded by Macdonald Mackintosh's
contemporaries Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, whose Secessionist
attenuated figure studies were part of the same pan-European
By Anne Crane
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