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Eugène Boudin’s view of the Deauville racecourse in 1866 which sold for a record €1.95m (£1.68m) at Sotheby’s Paris.

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An auction record for Eugène Boudin (1824-98) was achieved in the 53-lot sale of selected works from the collection of Robert and Nadine Schmit at Sotheby’s (26/21/14.9% buyer’s premium) in Paris.

Robert (1920-2008) established the Galerie Robert Schmit on the rue Saint Honoré in 1964. He was a specialist in 19th and 20th century painting and published several catalogues raisonnés, notably for Boudin, his favourite artist.

The selection offered at Sotheby’s on December 8 was assembled over decades by Robert and his wife Nadine. It featured not only 19th century and Impressionist paintings but also a selection of 20th century works and raised a total of €10.7m hammer (€13.2m including premium).

‘King of Skies’

The Boudin, which topped the auction, was the first lot to go under the hammer. The 16in x 2ft1¾ in (40.5 x 65.5cm) oil on canvas, painted in 1893, was signed E Boudin and titled Champ de courses de Deauville en 1866 lower left.

The resort of Deauville in Normandy, which became a popular summer retreat for the French aristocracy in the 1860s, was, alongside nearby Trouville, one of the artist’s most popular subjects. Boudin often depicted fashionable Parisians on the beach. More unusually in this instance he shows them packed in dense groups at the racecourse.

Like his beach scenes, however, the artist’s rendition of the sky is an important element occupying most of the composition. It was a perennial fascination that earned him the nickname ‘King of Skies’ from fellow artist Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.

The painting was formerly part of the Rothschild collections and Schmit chose it to illustrate the cover of the catalogue for the Boudin exhibition held at his gallery in 1984.

It was estimated at €300,000-500,000 but ended up selling for a hammer price of €1.95m (£1.68m), surpassing the previous high for the artist set at Christie’s in London in June 2013 for a beach scene from 1864 which realised a hammer price of £1.05m (source: Artprice by Artmarket).

No fewer than six Boudins were offered in the Schmit auction; two of them beach scenes at Trouville, plus a harbour view of Le Havre, a view of Portrieux and a view of Venice in the evening.

Of these the most expensive was the Venetian scene. The 21¾ x 2ft 11½in (55 x 90cm) oil on canvas depicting the Salute, the Piazetta and the Grand Canal, signed E Boudin Venise and dated 1893, sold for €750,000 (£646,550) against a €300,000-400,000 guide.

Fauvist work

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Kees van Dongen’s La Belle Fatima which realised €955,000 (£823,275) at Sotheby’s Paris.

The second-highest price of the auction came from the Schmits’ selection of modern 20th century works. Kees Van Dongen’s (1877-1968) colourful Fauvist work La Belle Fatima (or L’Almée) is thought to represent the Parisian cabaret dancer Anita whom the artist met when he was working in a studio in the Bateau Lavoir in the Bohemian milieu of Montmartre.

The 2ft 1½in x 22in (65 x 56cm) oil on canvas, painted c.1910 and signed van Dongen lower right, sold for €955,000 (£823,275) against an estimate of €1m-1.5m.

A further selection from the Schmit collection will be offered for sale in March 2022.

£1 = €1.16