It took over 15 minutes to sell, but when the gavel finally came down at £26.5m the Raphael from Chatsworth had become the second most expensive Old Master ever sold at auction – and the priciest drawing of all time.
Appearing as the final lot at
Sotheby's evening sale on December 5, there were four bidders
prepared to try their hand to acquire Head of an Apostle
which the auctioneers had estimated at £10m-15m.
Bidding was initially taken up by a telephone bidder and the
London-based dealer Jean-Luc Baroni who was sitting at the back of
the room just in front of a bank of TV cameras. When the bar
reached £13m, all eyes suddenly turned to the third row as fellow
Mason's Yard dealer Stephen Ongpin entered the fray.
The two dealers, who were both receiving instructions from
clients via mobile phones, kept the competition going before
another telephone bidder operating though a member of Sotheby's
client services department came in at £16.5m.
All three parties then contributed to a prolonged and dramatic
competition, taking the price up in increments of £250,000. Baroni
finally dropped out at £23.5m while Ongpin ended up as the
There was a round of applause in the saleroom as auctioneer
Henry Wyndham knocked down the hammer at a level that just eclipsed
the £26m for
another Raphael drawing sold at Christie's in December 2009.
The final sum was only behind Ruben's
Massacre of the Innocents which made £45m in 2002 in
terms of any Old Master picture sold at auction, but it was still
the most expensive lot sold at auction in Europe this year in any
The drawing itself was a later work than the 2009 Raphael
drawing at Christie's (Head of a Muse which was reported
purchased by American collector Leon Black), but both black chalk
drawings came to auction in superb condition.
Head of an Apostle itself was a sketch executed
c.1519-20 and was a study for one of the figures in The
Transfiguration - amongst Raphael's greatest paintings. The
14¾ x 11in (38 x 28cm) picture formed one of 17 auxiliary cartoons
that are known for final large-scale painting now in the Vatican,
six of which are in Britain (three in public collections and two in
Should the buyer try to take the work out of the country, it
will likely receive an export ban giving the nation six months to
raise the funds to match the price in order to keep it in
The same may also be with the case with the 15th
century illuminated manuscript The Deeds of Sir Gillion de
Trazegnies in the Holy Land, which also came from Chatsworth
and was offered at Sotheby's sale. It was knocked down to a dealer
in the room acting for The J Paul Getty Museum at £3.4m (est:
While the other illuminated manuscript from Chatsworth,
Mystere de la Vengeance, failed to draw any bids against a
£4m-6m estimate, the funds raised from these sales will go "to
benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections"
according to the current Duke of Devonshire who succeeded to the
Chatsworth seat in 2004 and has been a member of the Sotheby's
board since in November 1994, now serving as the company's deputy
Overall, Sotheby's 52-lot evening sale was pretty buoyant with
38 of the 51 lots selling (75%) for a hammer total of £51m. This
was towards the top end of the £35.6m-52.9m estimate. On this
occasion it was Sotheby's had the pick of the consignments and a
string of pictures that came fresh to the market included a
Balthasar van der Ast (1563-1657) still life that
also drew prolonged bidding against a £300,000-400,000 estimate.
With strong competition coming in the room from members of the
trade, it was eventually knocked down at £1.3m.
Jan Steen's (c.1626-1679) The prayer
before the meal saw a more muted response against a £5m-7m
estimate but got away at the low end of expectations to the single
interested party who was also the third-party guarantor.
Christie's Old Master evening sale on December 3 was a patchier
affair by contrast to both this sale and also their own bumper Old
Master auction in July that raised £74.5m. The £9.78m hammer total
was below the £11.6m-17.2m estimate with 29 out of 54 lots (54%)
The sale saw a record for Jacob Jordaens
(1593-1678) when The Meeting of Odysseus and
Nausicaa overshot a £500,000 - 800,000 estimate and was
knocked down to London dealer Johnny Van Haeften at £1.8m.
Bonhams also saw a number of lots commanding strong competitions
in their Old Master sale on December 5. This was particularly the
case with their top lot, a painting of Saint Peter that was
attributed El Greco (1541-1614) and went ten-times
over its £40,000-60,000 estimate, selling at £670,000 to a
European buyer. The sale's hammer total was £1.87m with 51 of the
101 lots finding buyers.
When the money generated from the day sales was added on, the
overall hammer total at the three salerooms over the week was
£68.8m, up on the £51.4m for the equivalent Old Master series last
year although lower than the £122m seen in the July sales.
A full report of the Old Master sales will appear in a future
issue of ATG's printed newspaper. To subscribe click here.