Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape, a Rembrandt print from the collection of Sam Josefowitz that sold for £1.25m at Christie’s.

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The series included one of the most valuable consignments of any Old Master prints ever offered at auction: the collection of Rembrandt etchings and drypoints assembled by the late Sam Josefowitz which appeared at Christie’s.

The collector who died in 2015 had not just built a global music and publishing business but also assembled ‘the world’s most important private collection of Rembrandt prints’ according to the auction house.

His collection of Impressionist & Modern art wasn’t bad either – it included a Kees van Dongen (1877- 1968) that made a record £9.1m at Christie’s in October.

Ahead of the first lot, the auctioneer and outgoing global president of Christie’s Jussi Pylkkänen said from the rostrum that the event would be “one of the great print sales of the last 100 years”. He was right.

Five of the most important works were offered at Christie’s Old Master Part 1 sale on December 7 with a further 70 lots appearing in a dedicated auction held on the same evening (the latter was a white-glove event). Across the two sales, the collection raised a cool £10.2m including fees with a remarkable 51 record prices for individual subjects.

Registered bidders came from 22 countries with 47% of the lots selling to US buyers, 45% to Europeans and 8% going to the Asia-Pacific region (including China).

Josefowitz sought out high-quality impressions of the rarest states of Rembrandt’s prints and this was encapsulated by the top lot of the collection: the copy of Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape that outscored a £500,000-700,000 estimate and was knocked down at £1.25m to a phone bidder. No copy of the image had ever made more than £300,000 before.

The 10¼ x 8in (26 x 21cm) etching and drypoint from c.1653 was a rare example of the first of two states – only 14 record impressions of which are known. It was described as a ‘superb and atmospheric’ copy which was printed on a warm-toned, light brown sheet evoking the fading yellow sunlight of a late afternoon.


The Shell (Conus Marmoreus), a Rembrandt print from the collection of Sam Josefowitz that sold for £580,000 at Christie’s.

With lot after lot drawing significant interest, the sale then finished on a major high when the final lot, a scarce copy of Rembrandt’s only etched still-life, The Shell, flew past a £80,000- 120,000 estimate.

Depicting a sea shell (Conus Marmoreus) approximately life size, it was a visually striking and technically innovative study which superbly captured the structure and the sheen of the subject’s surface.

The 3¾ x 5¼in (10 x 13cm) etching, engraving and drypoint dated from 1650 and the sheet here was an example of the second of three states – only five impressions of the first are known, 33 of the second and only one of the third. records only two other copies from any state emerging at auction in the last 40 years, one making £64,000 in 1997 and another selling at £60,000 in 1992. Both sold at Christie’s.

Given that the market for Rembrandt prints has moved on significantly since then and the fact that this current example represented an opportunity for collectors that may not be repeated for a long time, demand was fierce with two phone bidders and another party in the room carrying the price ever upwards.

It was eventually knocked down at £580,000 to one of the phones, a sensational end to a landmark auction in anyone’s book.