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In Paris the traditional November slot for Old Master sales has gained added impetus over the past three years from the Fine Arts Paris fair which also focuses on this category of painting and sculpture.

A host of works at varying price levels went under the hammer in the French capital in a mix of dedicated and mixed-discipline auctions. They included a run of strong results following fast on each others’ heels.

Twenty-four hours after Artcurial (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) sold Artemesia Gentileschi’s portrait of Lucretia for a multiple-estimate price of €4m (3.4m) in its November 13 sale (reported in ATG No 2418), Aguttes (25/23% buyer’s premium) hammered down Bernardino Luini’s oil on panel of the Virgin and Child with Saint George and an angel musician for €1.8m (£1.54m).

Then, the following week it was the turn of 17th century sculpture to take the spotlight as De Baecque (22.5% buyer’s premium) sold a bronze bust of a French statesman by Francesco Bordoni hammered down in a packed room for a quadruple-estimate €2.4m/£2.07m (see ATG No 2419).

Various auction houses across Germany and Austria also mount sale series at this time that feature dedicated Old Master sales or sale sections. And this week it is London’s turn as the main rooms will be holding their sales.

Pictured in International Events this week is a selection of some of the top results realised in those Paris sales and some of the notable results from the recent round of sales in Germany.

£1 = €1.16/7

In Leonardo’s footsteps

With the Louvre’s major exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci opened on October 24, November was not a bad time to be offering works by pupils and followers of the master at auction in Paris.

Bernardino Luini (1480-1532), who started his career as a fresco painter but is now best known as a pupil of da Vinci, was the most famous artist in Milan in his own time, receiving numerous commissions.

Aguttes’ 3ft 5in x 2ft 7in (1m x 79.5cm) panel, Virgin and Child with Saint George and an angel musician, was offered as the highlight of its November 14 dedicated Old Masters auction with an estimate of €1.8m-2m.

Cook collection

The painting was formerly in the collection of Sir Francis Cook (1817-1901) who assembled one of the most important collections of Old Masters in England in the 19th century at Doughty House in Richmond. But it was not unknown to the art market, as the auction house itself pointed out.

Just over two years ago it was offered as a Luini by Christie’s in London in its July 2017 auction of Old Master Paintings sold at the direction of Brenda, Lady Cook, and formerly from the Cook collection.

On that occasion it sold against much lower predictions of £150,000-250,000 for a premium-inclusive £173,000 to a collector living in Germany, who consigned it to Aguttes’ sale.

Given that the provenance was known and the cataloguing was the same, the huge difference in both estimate (and the final €1.8m/£1.54m price) would appear to be principally down to the painting having undergone a major programme of cleaning and restoration.

In November 2017 Christie’s sold da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, now famous as the world’s most expensive painting, for a premium-inclusive $450m.

The Salvator Mundi was also formerly in the Cook collection but at the time of its purchase by Sir Francis in 1900, from Sir Charles Robinson, it was attributed to Luini.

Both works hung in the long gallery at Doughty House alongside other paintings by Italian Renaissance artists.

The price paid at Aguttes for Virgin and Child with Saint George and an angel musician set a new auction record for Luini, beating the previous record of €1m set by Christie’s Paris in November 2018 for a smaller panel painting of a saint reading.

Of a style


The Virgin and Child painted by Cesare Magni, a Milanese contemporary of Leonardo, realised €470,000 (£401,710) at Artcurial on November 13.

Aside from the Luini, two other Leonardesque paintings by followers of the famous Old Master featured in other Paris auctions, each making much more than predicted.

The week before in Artcurial’s auction, the most expensive painting after the Gentileschi was a Virgin and Child by Cesare Magni (1492-1534) a Milanese artist whose works rarely surface on the market.

This 2ft 5in x 22in (74 x 57cm) oil on cradled panel, showing the figures against a draped curtain with a mountainous landscape in the distance to the top left, is signed Cesare M 1523 – which is significant as it pushes the period of the artist’s activity back by almost a decade. Artcurial’s estimate of €200,000-300,000 was eclipsed as the bidding sailed to €470,000 (£401,710).

In the case of Sotheby’s dedicated Old Masters, drawings and sculpture sale on November 19 the Leonardo connection was less contemporary.

The saleroom was offering a version of the Mona Lisa dated to the 17th century. This 2ft 9in x 2ft (83.5 x 59.5cm) version was painted on canvas rather than the poplar panel of Leonardo’s original. According to a stamp on the stretcher it had a provenance to Comte H de Dampierre.

The painting was last under the hammer in 2010 at Tajan in Paris where it was purchased by Sotheby’s vendor, the Contemporary artist Wim Delvoye.

Offered for sale with an estimate of €70,000-90,000, it was finally hammered down after a protracted battle for €450,000 (£384,615).