Titled Interior. The Music Room, Strandgade 30, it depicts a piano, cello and violin in the Copenhagen apartment where the artist and his wife Ida lived from 1898-1908.
The apartment provided the setting of Hammershøi’s most important interior paintings and this 2ft 4in x 23.25in (70 x 59cm) oil on canvas has hung on the very wall it depicts for over 70 years after the Danish vendor’s grandparents bought the property in the mid 20th century. At that time they already owned the picture, having bought it when it last appeared at auction in a Copenhagen sale in 1944.
On moving into the apartment in the late 19th century, Hammershøi had the walls painted in cool grey tones in order to better reflect the distinct Nordic light, while the woodwork was painted in stark white which he often used as a framing device for his compositions.
The current picture was painted in 1907 and demonstrated the artist’s interest in music – he and Ida regularly hosted evenings of chamber music in their home. The cello and violin in the picture may well have belonged to the children of Hammershøi’s friend, patron and biographer Alfred Bramsen.
Interior. The Music Room, Strandgade 30 has only once been shown outside Scandinavia as part of a Hammershøi exhibition which travelled from Copenhagen to Paris and New York in 1997-98.
In the last six years, auction prices for the artist have greatly increased, exceeding $3m on four occasions according to Artprice. The picture that holds the current record also has a musical theme: Interior with woman at piano, Strandgade 30 from 1901 that sold for $5.3m (£4.04m) at Sotheby's New York in 2017.
More recently, Stue (Interior with an Oval Mirror) from 1900 fetched $5.2m (£4.27m) at Christie’s sale of the Anne H. Bass collection – a higher price in pounds but not in dollars.
In tandem with this development, museum acquisitions of the artist’s work outside Scandinavia have included paintings entering The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
Sotheby’s senior international specialist in European paintings Claude Piening said: “It is immensely exciting to be able to bring to the market this exceptional interior, which stands out both on account of its quality and quintessential subject matter but also of its provenance. In the same family ownership for over three quarters of a century, during that time it has graced the very wall it depicts in Hammershøi’s Copenhagen home.”