The sale of 40 select paintings from the Najd collection achieved individual records for some of the biggest names in the category including Jean-Léon Gérôme, Ludwig Deutsch and Gustav Bauernfeind.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the collection was formed by Saudi billionaire Nasser Al-Rashid who assembled an impressive collection of around 155 works with the help of Brian MacDermot, the founder of London dealership The Mathaf Gallery. It was described by Sotheby’s Middle East & India chairman Edward Gibbs as “one of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever formed”.
At the auction on October 22, 36 of the lots sold (90%) with the highest price coming for a painting by Ottoman artist Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910). Koranic Instruction, a scene that featured a self-portrait of the painter set within the spectacular interior of the Green Mosque in Bursa, Turkey, sold at £3.9m against a £3m-5m estimate and followed the £5.7m for the artist’s Young Woman Reading at Bonhams in September, a result that raised the bar for any Orientalist painting.
One of the strongest competitions at Sotheby’s came for The Tribute by Ludwig Deutsch (1855-1935), one of the many works in the collection acquired directly from Mathaf.
The 2ft 4in x 3ft 3in (70cm x 1m) oil on panel from 1909 was one of the most ambitious and painstakingly detailed compositions in the Austrian artist’s oeuvre. Estimated at £1.5m-2.5m, it was pursued by a number of bidders and was knocked down at £3.6m to a private collector.
All seven works by Deutsch sold at the sale, adding a combined £9.5m including premium to the overall total.
A record was also set for German painter Gustav Bauernfeind (1848-1904) when Market in Jaffa sold at £3.1m (est: £2.5m-3.5m). It had been acquired from Mathaf which bid £320,00 to secure it at the sale of Coral Petroleum’s corporate collection at Sotheby's New York in May 1985.
Arguably the most famous of all Orientalist painters, Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) was represented in the sale with five works. The top lot among them, Riders Crossing the Desert, sold below estimate when it was knocked down at £2.6m against predictions of £3m-5m. The sum was nevertheless a record for the French painter and sculptor.
The Najd sale formed part of London’s Islamic Week that included an auction of the late dealer Oliver Hoare’s collection at Christie’s on October 25.