MAJOR American museums played an active role as both buyers and sellers in the latest Old Master sales in New York.
The top lot at Christie's Old Master and 19th
Century picture sale in the Big Apple on January 27 was a Parisian
scene from 1812 by Louis Léopold Boilly (1761-1845). The
Entrance to the Turkish Garden Café was knocked down at $4m
(£2.56m) against a $3m-5m estimate and was bought by the J. Paul
Getty Museum bidding through the London dealers Hazlitt, Gooden
& Fox in the room.
Setting an auction record for the artist, it was acquired for
the Los Angeles museum's permanent collection. Although this was
over four times higher than the previous record, the price was
thought to be about the same that the vendor had paid when it was
purchased from London dealers Matthiesen in 1991.
While two high-profile casualties were The Sleeping
Shepherd by Samuel Palmer and Bacchus at the Wine Vat
by Cranach the Elder - both estimated at $2.5m-3.5m - another
record was set for Gaetano Gandolfi (1734-1802) when Diana and
Callisto sold to a private collector for $3.6m (£2.31m)
against predictions of $800,000-1.2m.
The overall hammer total for Christie's 330-lot sale was $33.2m
(£21.3m), under the $48m presale low estimate. With 210 lots
finding buyers, the selling rate by lot was 64 per cent.
Prices and selling rates were generally solid throughout the
auction series but few lots brought the kind of dramatic levels of
bidding seen for the top pictures sold at the Old Master sales in
London in December.
Sotheby's meanwhile managed to outsell their
rivals by some margin, as was the case in last year's equivalent
New York series.
Their 200-lot Old Master paintings sale on January 28 made a
hammer total of $52.4m (£33.57m) - within the $44m -63.3m presale
estimate - and saw 147 lots find buyers (74 per cent).
For the second year running, the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art consigned pictures to fund new acquisitions. Offering 10
pictures deemed lesser examples from their Old Master collection,
nine sold for a combined $2.23m (£1.43m).
Uppermost amongst them was Christoph Amberger's (c.1505-1561)
portrait of Hans Jakob Fugger which drew one of the strongest
contests of the sale against a £200,000-300,000 estimate and sold
at £1m (£641,025).
Separately consigned, but also generating a strong competition
was a famous picture which once thought to be a portrait by
Leonardo da Vinci.
Eight decades after a much-published legal battle regarding its
authenticity between the American owners, Harry and Andrée Hahn,
and the art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen, La Belle Ferronnière
was catalogued here as by a follower of Leonardo (it is now thought
to be a French copy painted around 1700-1750) and estimated at
Drawing four bidders, it sold to a US private buyer at $1.3m
If this figure raised a few eyebrows in the saleroom then so did
the news that a Rembrandt portrait of a young woman estimated at
$8-12m was withdrawn at the eleventh hour, apparently at the
request of the British owner.
This meant that the top lot of the sale was Two Studies of a
Bearded Man by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) which sold to
an anonymous buyer at $6.4m (£4.1m). Sotheby's had issued a
guarantee for the vendor, a descendant of the collector Montgomery
HW Ritchie, and a symbol in the catalogue indicated that it had
been subject to an irrevocable bid.
This price eclipsed the $6m (£3.85m) seen for Hendrick Goltzius'
(1558-1617) Jupiter and Antiope which, although below the
$8-12m estimate, was a record for the artist.
The 6ft (1.83m) wide erotic Mannerist composition depicting the
encounter between a voluptuous beauty and a satyr had been subject
to a forced sale in 1941 before it entered the collection of
Hermann Goering. Restored to the heirs of the German Jewish toy
manufacturer Abraham Adelsberger in 2009, it sold here to a
By Alex Capon
Exchange rate: £1 = $1.56. All auction prices quoted by ATG
are hammer prices, unless otherwise stated. The buyer's premium at
both Sotheby's and Christie's is 25/20/12 per cent.