Antoine Watteau’s profile drawing of the head of the young woman that realised €120,000 (£105,265) in the Artcurial sale of works from a Parisian collection.

Image copyright: Artcurial

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The 130-odd lots offered in Paris on September 21 comprised works spanning the 16th to early 20th centuries assembled by a private collector in the early 20th century and kept in the same family since. They raised a premium-inclusive total of €1.76m.

Old Master drawings

The sale opened with 37 lots devoted to Old Master and 19th century paintings and works on paper.

This section was strong on Old Master drawings, many of them acquired at auction in the 1920s and with a provenance to the collection of Paul Desmarais and then by descent. They featured examples by some of the best-known names in 18th century French art that, as predicted, were among the top prices of the sale.

Selling for €120,000 (£105,265) was a small and delicate profile portrait sketch of a young woman by Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) in red, black and white chalk measuring 4¾ x 3in (12 x 7.5cm).

Last under the hammer in 1927 at the Hôtel Drouot sale of the collection of Jean Dubois, before it was acquired by Desmarais, it was set in a richly carved and gilt Louis XV period frame. The price was around double the €50,000-80,000 estimate, paid by an international collector.

Jean Honoré Fragonard’s (1732-1806) brown wash and chalk copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait showing the artist with his palette, measuring 10¼ x 8¼in (26 x 21cm), was acquired by Desmarais in 1903 from Kraemer Frères in Paris. Another of the top lots at Artcurial, it made €80,000 (£70,175), well over the €20,000- 30,000 guide.


François Boucher’s chalk study of the Molière character Sganarelle sold for €26,000 (£22,810) at Artcurial.

Image copyright: Artcurial

A 10½in x 6¼in (27 x 16cm) red chalk study by François Boucher (1703-70) of Sganarelle, a character who features in Molière’s play L’Amour Medécin, sold within estimate at €26,000 (£22,810).


An oil panel portrait of a man catalogued as mid 16th century Florentine school, entourage of Agnolo Bronzino which realised €85,000 (£74,560) at Artcurial.

Image copyright: Artcurial

An oil on panel portrait of a man in a black costume holding a glove catalogued as mid-16th century Florentine School, entourage of Agnolo Bronzino, was another top lot at €85,000 (£74,560).

The 4ft 2in x 3ft 1in (1.28m x 94cm) work, which had some small areas of lifting and restoration to the paint surface, had an old label to the reverse reading Portrait of / Caesarino Sforza / (from the Guadagni Gallery of / Florence) / Bronzino.

Vuillard links

Among the later paintings were two works by Edouard Vuillard directly relating to the Desmarais family both executed in oil on card.

One, The Sewing Workshop, was a study for an overdoor that was part of a decorative scheme executed in 1882 for the Salon of Monsieur and Madame Paul Desmarais’ hotel particulier in Paris.

The 10 x 4¼in (25 x 11cm) panel, stamped Vuillard, was formerly in the collection of the author and art historian John Rewald and had been subsequently acquired from the Galerie Béres by Paul Desmarais’ grand-daughter. It sold for €40,000 (£35,085).

The other was a 21½ x 23¼in (55 x 59cm) portrait of Stéphane Desmarais, a young relative, shown drawing in an interior dated to 1905-6. This realised an upper-estimate €120,000 (£105,265).

Quantities of French furniture, silver and objects of vertu, scientific instruments and a group of later 16th/early 17th century Bruges tapestries followed the picture section but the top price of the sale came less expectedly from a small selection of Chinese porcelain.

A pair of 11 in (28cm) high square section celadon vases, decorated in gold with scrolls, lotus and other motifs with a Shende Tang mark to the base, were dated to the Qing dynasty, 19th century and had a €6000-8000 estimate. However, this guide was eclipsed with the bidding soaring to no less than €215,000 (£188,595)

The Watteau à Vuillard sale was followed on the same day by a 349-lot auction of furnishings from the Château du Marais that raised a premium-inclusive €1.57m.

£1 = €1.14