The c.1810 modello was completed for a commission by Napoleon, the finished version of which now resides at Versailles.
It had been in a private French collection but resurfaced at a hotel auction in 2017. X-ray analysis of the picture has revealed stages of the artist’s process, including the reworking and removal of the figure of Josephine following the couple’s divorce, as well as the removal of a winged allegory of Victory swooping overheard.
The final lot in the New York saleroom’s morning auction on May 1, it was knocked down for $2.1m (£1.6m), within its $1.5m-2.5m estimate. It has been requested as a loan for a show at the Met in 2021.
A total of $48.4m (£37.25m) was raised over the three auctions. Topping the series was a double portrait of a husband and wife by Jan Sanders van Hemessen consigned by artist Frank Stella, which sold for $8.6m (£6.62m) (see ATG No 2391).
Meanwhile, works from the collection of New York art dealer Richard Feigen sold for more than $12m, led by a Virgin and Child by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609). It is his earliest-known painting on panel and was knocked down at $5.1m (£3.9m), an auction record for the artist.
Lorenzo Monaco’s (c.1370-c.1425)The Prophet Isaiah also made a record for the artist when it was knocked down for $3m (£2.31m). The gold-ground tondo is thought to be one of the missing pinnacles from his Annunciation altarpiece in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.
A fragmentary painting of Lot and his daughters by German artist Hans Baldung Grien (c.1484-1545), which was publicised before the sale, was estimated at $700,000-900,000 (see ATG No 2389). It comprised three of four fragments, pieced together for the first time since its rediscovery in the early 20th century. However, according to a Christie’s spokesperson, the work was withdrawn and sold privately before the auction.
Following the main sale, 15 pictures from the estate of the late dealer Herman Shickman were offered, making a premium-inclusive $10.5m. It was topped by another artist-at-auction record for a still-life by Juan van der Hamen y León (1596-1631), which made $5.5m (£4.19m) including buyer’s premium.
Later that day, a pair of parcel-gilt polychrome wood altarpiece reliefs attributed to Hans Klocker and workshop (c.1495-1500) made $290,000 (£220,930), outstripping its high estimate of $120,000 and leading the Old Masters Paintings and Sculpture sale.