Depicting the early 20th century Hollywood stars and lovers Pola Negri and Rudolph Valentino, the 5ft 4in x 4ft 3in (1.63 x 1.3m) signed oil on canvas was knocked down in London to a UK private buyer at £120,000, more than 10 times the low estimate.
This was an impressive leap in value from its previous auction price of £18,000, which it fetched at Sotheby’s in November 2004. With premium added, the price of £149,000 represented a record for the artist, surpassing the premium-inclusive £132,500 set by Masses’ Alegoria de Carmen at Sotheby’s in November 2007.
Masses, who studied under Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida in Barcelona, is known for seductive nudes and these melancholic Art Deco-style portraits depicting the glitterati of the day (a number of which were shown last year at Stair Sainty’s major retrospective of the artist’s work in London).
As expected, the Bonhams sale was led by a major portrait of a young girl in a summer landscape by George Clausen (1852-1944). Noon in the Hayfield, a 3ft 10in x 2ft 9in (1.17m x 84cm) oil on canvas, was dated 1897-98 but took nearly a decade to complete.
Estimated at a punchy £500,000-800,000, it was knocked down to a UK buyer slightly under predictions at £480,000. However, the price is still among the highest for the artist at auction.
The sale was Bonhams’ strongest in the 19th century category to date, surpassing the previous high of £2.1m taken in March 2006 to total £2.79m. Three-quarters of the 141 lots (75%) found buyers.
Peter Rees, Bonhams’ department director, told ATG: “We were particularly encouraged by the number of private bidders and by the international scope of interest that our auctions generate. We always endeavour to offer works that are fresh to the market, sensibly estimated, and good examples of the artist’s oeuvre.”