Christ crucified between two Thieves: ‘The Three Crosses’, a Rembrandt print that sold for £1.2m at Christie’s.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

One of the lots that showed how it is still possible for works in this sector not only hold their value but also make healthy returns was an elusive Rembrandt (1606-69) print that returned to Christie’s 30 years after its last auction appearance.

The copy of his Christ crucified between two Thieves: ‘The Three Crosses’ emerged at Christie’s on July 7 having fetched £145,000 in the same rooms back in 1992. Back then it was offered from the collection of the Counts of Plessen-Cronstern in northern Germany, where it had been kept for over 200 years. The price in 1992 equates to about £285,000 in today’s prices, taking inflation into account.

With the buyer from back then the vendor here, the 15¼ x 17¾in (39 x 45cm) drypoint from 1653 was estimated at £800,000-1.2m, an indication of the way the top end of the Rembrandt prints market has grown in the intervening period.

With two phone bidders going head-to-head, it was knocked down on top estimate to a US collector who was bidding through Christie’s international print specialist Tim Schmelcher.

The price, up four-fold over the 30-year period in real terms, was the second-highest price for any Old Master print and only exceeded by another important drypoint print by Rembrandt: the copy of Christ presented to the People (‘Ecce Homo’), also originally from Plessen-Cronstern collection, that sold for £2.3m at Christie’s in 2018.

Highly sought after

The key to the value was effectively that it was a highly sought-after subject, a rare impression of the third of the five states and a finely inked impression with striking contrasts.

Schmelcher told ATG: “Rembrandt’s ‘The Three Crosses’ is one of the greatest and most intriguing works of European printmaking… It is fitting that these two companion pieces and highpoints of Rembrandt’s printed oeuvre also now represent the pinnacle of the Old Master prints market.”