The combined premium-inclusive total of the three Sotheby’s sales and one drawings auction at Christie’s was $90.4m (£69.5m), up from $81.3m (£62.5m) at the equivalent sales last year.
It was the largest-grossing series since Christie’s shifted its calendar in 2016, moving its main New York Old Master sales to the spring.
The two Italian pictures that led the week both came at Sotheby’s, although they struggled to match the heights of pre-sale expectations.
First was a rare Andrea Mantegna (c.1431-1506) preparatory study for part of the artist’s famed ‘Triumphs’ series now on display at Hampton Court Palace. It was one of only 20 known drawings by Mantegna, with all bar two in museums.
The study had an undisclosed estimate ‘in excess of $12m’ at Sotheby’s Old Master drawings sale on January 29 but was eventually knocked down at $10m (£7.7m). It is nonetheless a landmark sum for an Old Master drawing (the fifth highest of all time and the most expensive sold in the US). The result helped Sotheby’s achieve its highest total for an Old Master drawings sale at $15.1m (£11.6m).
The other major consignment of the week was offered at Sotheby’s Master paintings sale the following day: a monumental altarpiece by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770). Although it was knocked down at the lower end of expectations at $15m (£11.5m), the 8ft (2.46m) high oil on canvas from 1735 doubled the Venetian artist’s auction record.
Elsewhere at the sale, two works by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) fetched $6m (£4.62m) and $1.9m (£1.46m) apiece, while a Canaletto (1697-1768) view of The Grand Canal which was being sold by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to benefit its acquisition fund sold for $4.4m (£3.38m) to a private collector against a $3m-5m estimate.
A Canaletto drawing with an English subject consigned from the collection of investor JE Safra, a member of the Safra banking family, led Christie’s Old Master & British Drawings sale on January 28. The view of the south front of Warwick Castle went to a phone buyer at $750,000 (£577,000), below the $800,000-1.2m estimate.
Exchange rate £1 = $1.30