The Degas and Gros sales are covered in a report in ATG’s weekly printed newspaper (issue 2288). Pictured here are some of the highlights and best-sellers from the other auctions held in the French capital last month.
The top-selling lot in Sotheby’s March 23 sale of modern works on paper was a 2ft 1in x 19.5in (65 x 50cm) Indian ink and brush on paper, Visage, by Henri Matisse, executed in Nice in 1952 and monogrammed lower right. It sold at the lower end of its €800,000-€1m estimate (£695,650).
While the first part of the Gaston Delestre collection, offered by Artcurial on March 22, was given over to the family’s archive of drawings by Antoine-Jean Gros, the second comprised drawings by other old masters assembled by Gaston and his grandfather Maurice.
There was some very keen bidding here with several items outstripping estimates including a pen and ink drawing by the 17th century Dutch artist Abraham Furnerius of a cottage at the entrance to a village. The artist was a pupil of Rembrandt and his drawings are attributed on the stylistic basis of a group of five in the Kupferstich Kabinett in Dresden that have an annotation in his name.
The 6 x 10in (15.5 x 20.5cm) work attracted keen competition from the room and two phones, one manned by Artcurial’s departmental head Matthieu Fournier, who finally triumphed for his bidder at a quadruple estimate €150,000 (£130,435).
The drawings section of Artcurial’s mixed-owner March 23 sale opened with some lots with distinguished market-fresh provenances. They came from the family of the artist Baron Gérard by direct descent and from the family of Georges Dormeuil 1856-1939, regarded as one of the greatest drawings collectors of his time.
This second property featured a black and red chalk profile study of a man in a hat by Jean Antoine Watteau 1684-1721, a working drawing for his painting Le Conteur which was sold by Christie’s in 2000. Prior to its entry into the Dormeuil collection, whose stamp it bore lower right, the drawing was in that of Léon Decloux, which was sold at Drouot In 1898.
At Artcurial it went within estimate at €195,000 (£169,565).
As well as their Degas studio sale, Christie’s offered a mixed-owner works on paper auction on March 23. Among the works which created strongest competition in a packed room was a large highly detailed Athenian landscape by Louis-François Cassas (1756-1827).
The 2ft 2in x 3ft 5in (67cm x 1m) watercolour, pencil, pen and ink study was the product of a tour of the near east and Asia Minor with the Duc de Choiseul Gouffier to study archaeological monuments. At Christie’s was part of small group of topographical watercolours that had come from an apartment on the Ile Saint Louis and were acquired from the Galerie Didier Aaron in the 1990s.
It was contested by a Belgian online; a room and a phone bidder before selling to the phone for a double estimate €150,000 (£130,435). At this level it surpassed the potential best-seller of the auction, a Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770) chalk head of a man that was making a fairly recent return to market having been purchased from the London drawings specialist Jean-Luc Baroni in 2003. This sold just under estimate at €130,000 (£113,045).
A sizeable element of old master drawings and works on paper was included in Sotheby’s March 30 sale of works from the collection of the Parisian antique dealers Bacri Frères. Among them was this 9 x 6.5in (23 x 17cm) brush and wash drawing of a couple in a park by Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) which sold for €120,000 (£104,350), four times the auctioneers’ estimate.
Drawings featured prominently in a single-owner, anonymously consigned French collection of art and furnishings sold by Christie’s on March 22. The works on paper element was led by Jean Honoré Fragonard’s 10 x 14in (26 x 36cm) Le Baiser à la fumée which got away at a low estimate €180,000 (£156,520) but the highest prices were paid for oil paintings.
A Francesco Gaudi (1712-1793) Venetian veduta topped sale on €650,000 (£565,220) but the biggest surprise came when a 16th century Flemish oil on panel went under the hammer. The 15.75 x 12.25in (40 x31`cm) work, depicting Mary Magdelene dressed as a wealthy Flemish lady reading an illuminated book, is one of several versions of the subject, all unsigned, by the Bruges artist Adriaen Isenbrant (c.1480-1551), others being in the Prado and the Dijon Fine Art Museum.
Christie’s work had an early 20th century provenance to North American collections before selling at Sotheby’s London in 1972 where it was acquired by Richard Green Gallery for £21,500.
It came here with an estimate of €40,000-60,000 but was contested to no less than €380,000 (£330,435).
An ink drawing by Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was one of the top lots in Aguttes’ sale of paintings and works on paper held at Drouot on March 27 where it sold for a premium inclusive price of €110,000 (£95,650).
The 7.5 x 8.5in (91 x 22cm) work, which is signed and dated 1855 lower right, depicts a ruined building known as the Hermitage on the island of Jersey where Hugo lived during his political exile and where he produced a number of drawings.