Great enthusiasm emerged at Drouot for a newly discovered early work by the Spanish-born painter Giuseppe de Ribeira (1591-1652).
The 3ft 3in x 2ft 5in (1m x 75.5cm) oil on canvas depicting an elderly wizen-featured man holding a sheaf of papers was found in a private house by the French auction firm Daguerre (30% buyer’s premium). It was researched and identified as a Riberia by Stéphane Pinta of the Old Master painting experts Cabinet Turquin.
It dates from c.1610 when the artist was in Rome and it features a model used by Ribeira on several occasions during his Roman period including for a Saint Bartholemew now in Florence and The Denial of Saint Peter in Rome.
Offered for sale on June 16 with estimate of €200,000-300,000, demand rapidly outstripped that level with the hammer falling at €1.4m (£1.27m) to a Swedish gallery.
“Since we unveiled the existence of this canvas, collectors have continued to express their interest even during the health crisis,” said Daguerre’s Maitres Benoît Derouineau and Bertrand de Cotton.
“Thanks to digital tools such as videos, photographs and information that we broadcast many bidders were mobilised. None of the bidders present in the room or on the phone had seen the painting before the sale. They had complete confidence in the expertise of the Turquin firm.”
The painting is thought to depict a philosopher or a mathematician, perhaps Archimedes or Democritus but another more recent suggestion, provided by the photography expert Serge Plantureux, is that it could represent another ancient Greek: the surveyor astronomer and mathematician Apollonius.
A few days later more notable Old Master results were achieved by the same firm when it offered the contents of a Parisian apartment on the Ile Saint Louis at Drouot on June 23. An oil on canvas by François Boucher was sold for €380,000 (£345,455), a multiple of the €40,000-60,000 guide.
This was another rediscovered work researched by the Cabinet Turquin and again a painting from the early part of an artist’s career. Executed in Watteauesque style, it is thought to portray the famous hurdy gurdy player Pierre de Jélyotte with whom Boucher was acquainted.
The 15½ x 12½in (39.5 x 32cm) oil on canvas, which is signed lower left F Bou…, had a provenance to the sale of Vassal de Saint Hubert Paris on April 14, 1783, and to the auction of the collection of Vicomte Beuret at the Galerie Georges Petit in November 1924. However, it had disappeared from the market for almost a century until its appearance in this sale. The buyer at Drouot was an overseas gallery.
The collection also included a Boucher drawing: a 9 x 9½in (23 x 24cm) red chalk study showing a family dining in an interior surrounded by cooking utensils, a cat and a dog.
This has a provenance and stamps for the collection of Comte Anne-Henri de Biéville-Noyant and the Chennevières collection which was sold at Drouot in 1898 and was then in an anonymous sale at the Galerie Charpentier in 1958. It sold within estimate at €27,000 (£24,545).
£1 = €1.10