Le Palais Ducal came to the auction on February 26 with a £20m-30m estimate – a level in line with the £21m fetched by another view of the Grand Canal sold in the same rooms in February 2015.
The painting was always bound to sell on the night as the auctioneers had arranged a guarantee via an ‘irrevocable bid’ from a third party. At the auction, it drew three bidders, all on the phone.
Sotheby’s said the price was an auction record for a Venetian view by the artist.
Monet visited Venice only once, arriving in October 1908 and declaring the canalled city “too beautiful to paint”. He did, however, paint around 40 works during his three-month stay and they now form a relatively small group of pictures in the artist’s oeuvre – certainly much smaller than the 250 works in his later waterlilies series.
While the majority of Monet’s Venice scenes are now in museums, this picture had remained in the same family since 1925 when it was acquired by Erich Goeritz, a Berlin-based textile manufacturer who built a famous collection of Impressionist and Modern art.
His purchases included Édouard Manet’s Un bar aux Folies-Bergère, now the star attraction in London’s Courtauld Insitute of Art, and works from his collection were later donated to range of museums such as the British Museum, the Tate and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
An auction record for Monet was set last year when Christie’s sold Nymphéas en fleur from c.1914-17 for $84.7m (£62.4m) including premium as part of its sale of the celebrated Rockefeller collection.
Tonight’s sale at Sotheby’s was the first auction at which the firm’s new buyer’s premium structure was introduced. It meant that fees for buyers had increased on previous levels and were now above the rates applied by rivals Christie’s whose equivalent Impressionist and Modern art auction is tomorrow evening.
Egon Schiele’s Fishing Boat
Elsewhere at the Sotheby’s sale, an unusual painting of a fishing boat by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) overshot a £6m-8m estimate and was knocked down at £9.2m to a phone bidder.
While the artist is best known for his figurative works, this 2ft 6in (75cm) square oil and pencil on canvas entitled Triestiner Fischerboot (Trieste Fishing Boat) is unique within Schiele’s oeuvre. It dates from 1912 when the artist visited the Italian port after being exiled from his home in the Austrian town of Neulengbach.
The painting’s first owner was Heinrich Böhler, who came from a family of known art patrons and was introduced to Schiele in 1914 by Josef Hoffmann. It has been in a private collection since 1962 and was appearing at auction for the first time.
Along with the Surrealist art sale which immediately followed Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern art auction, the overall total on the night was £87.7m (including premium) with 32 of the 39 lots finding buyers (82%).