The book of hours known as The Rothschild Prayerbook sold for $12m (£7.55m) at Christie’s in New York.
Part of their 'Renaissance' sale on January 29, a separately
catalogued auction which was held on the same day as their main Old
Master auction, it was knocked down at the lower end of its
$12m-18m estimate. The reported buyer was a private collector
bidding on the phone.
In sterling terms, the price was less than the sum it had
fetched when it last sold at auction for £7.8m at Christie's in
London in July 1999 although the premium-inclusive price in dollars
Back then it had been offered as part of the prestigious sale of
the collections of the Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild
and was believed to have been purchased by a private European buyer
with underbidding coming from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los
The 1999 price still holds the auction record for any
illuminated manuscript although the highest price seen for any type
of manuscript overall is the $28m (£17.5m) paid by Bill Gates for
Leonardo da Vinci's 'Codex Leicester' which sold at Christie's New
York in November 1994.
The Rothschild Prayerbook itself features 150 pages and
miniatures which collectively are regarded as one of the finest
achievements of the Flemish Renaissance. They were produced by the
leading masters of illumination of Ghent or Bruges around c.1505
after being commissioned by a prominent member of the Habsburg
court in the Netherlands.
The manuscript was later bought by Baron Anselm von Rothschild
in either the late 1860s or early 1870s and remained in the family
until it was confiscated by the Nazis in 1938. It was returned to
the Rothschild family by the Austrian government in 1999, shortly
before the auction in the same year.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.
£1 = 1.59