Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sales in New York have achieved the impressive total of $79,255,816. The auctions included Master Paintings: Part I, Selected Renaissance and Mannerist Works of Art Assembled by Fabrizio Moretti, Master Paintings & Sculpture: Part II, and Old Master Drawings. Auction records were set for artists across the category including Giovanni Paolo Panini, Vittore Carpaccio, Antoine Coypel, Willem van de Velde, Lorenzo Veneziano and Clodion. A total of 15 lots sold for more than $1 million.
Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings commented, “We are thrilled with these results, which show incredible depth and vibrancy in this market driven overwhelmingly by private buyers. The recipe for success in this field is fresh material, estimated correctly and presented thoughtfully; and with $2.9 million for the earliest work in the sale, a small gold ground of the Crucifixion from circa 1285, $5.2 million and $2.7 million for rediscoveries by Constable and El Greco respectively, and record prices for Van de Velde and Panini, among others, there is clearly a tremendous appetite for Old Masters across the category.”
“It may be tempting for many to compare Old Masters to other categories of the art market,” said George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department Worldwide. “The truth is that names like El Greco, Brueghel, van Dyck and Constable have stood the test – and taste – of time for over 200 years. In a market driven by ever better-informed buyers, many of whom are increasingly collecting across categories, the universal appeal and timeless beauty of these masterpieces have never had a more global and stronger resonance.”
Master Paintings: Part I brought a total of $57,142,500 with 72% sold by lot and 97% of sold lots bringing prices at or above their estimates. Twelve lots sold for more than $1 million, including Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, a preparatory work for one of John Constable’s most celebrated masterpieces, now in the Tate, which soared to $5.2 million after an extended battle, well in excess of expectations (est. $2/3 million). The top selling lot was Willem van de Velde the Elder, one of the greatest examples of a penschilderij (pen and ink painting) remaining in private hands, which brought $5.4 million, above the high estimate and a new record for the artist at auction. Auction records were also set for Giovanni Paolo Panini, Vittore Carpaccio and Antoine Coypel. Works from the collection of J.E. Safra were among the top selling lots, including Frozen River at Sunset by Dutch artist Aert van der Neer, which achieved $4.7 million, and Giovanni Paolo Panini’s Rome, The Pantheon, a view of the interior towards the Piazza della Rotonda, which sold for $5.3 million.
The morning sale was followed by Selected Renaissance and Mannerist Works of Art Assembled by Fabrizio Moretti, a group of early Italian works assembled by the dealer and scholar Fabrizio Moretti. The auction totaled $6,466,000, with all but two lots finding buyers. The top lot of the sale was a pair of painted gold ground panels by Venetian master Lorenzo Veneziano depicting St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Sigismund of Burgundy, which fetched $1.3 million, above its pre-sale estimate of $600/800,000 and a new record for the artist at auction. Jacopo Di Cione’s spectacular panel Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and Angels bought $965,000. Top prices also included works by Giovanni della Robbia and Pasqualino di Niccolò, called Pasqualino Veneto.
Mr. Apostle continued, “We were particularly pleased by the success of our collaboration with Fabrizio Moretti. With a total above the high estimate and nearly 94% of all lots sold, the enthusiasm for Renaissance and Mannerist works was felt acutely this afternoon. We were delighted to have been able to help raise funds for causes dear to Fabrizio’s heart – The Fabrizio Moretti Foundation, which works to give those with certain disabilities access to the therapeutic benefits of horses, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where funds will be dedicated to the study and conservation of Italian Old Master Paintings.”
Master Paintings & Sculpture: Part II totaled $10,299,376. The sale was led by a terracotta sculpture by Claude Michel, called Clodion, entitled Bacchante With Grapes Carried By Two Bacchantes And A Bacchant, which sold for $2.9 million, over seven times the previous record at auction. This is the top price for a sculpture sold at any auction house this week. Other highlights include a South Netherlandish brass chandelier, which fetched $341,000 (est. $40/60,000) and a pair of paintings by Hubert Robert, which achieved $365,000 (est. $150/200,000).
Covering all aspects of Western European drawing from the 15th to the mid-19th century, the Old Master Drawings sale kicked off Masters Week on 28 January 2015, totalling $5,347,940. Sale highlights included works by Francesco Guardi, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and Giovanni Francesco Barbieri. Federico Barocci’s Study Of The Head Of A Young Lady Looking Down sold for $221,000 (est. $50/70,000). The top lot, a Jacques-Louis David study for The Intervention of the Sabine Women, soared to $401,000, over six times its high estimate of $60,000. Setting a record for a work on paper by the artist at auction, Henry Fuseli’s study for The Three Witches Appear before Macbeth and Banquo fetched $281,000 (est. $60/80,000).
Gregory Rubinstein, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings Department, commented: “We are delighted with the results of the sale, which were among our strongest, both in total and sell-through rate, in recent years. Looking at our top ten lots, it’s clear that there is a robust appetite for classic drawings of quality across the category. Among the auction records set today was a new benchmark for Henry Fuseli, whose scene from Act I of Macbeth brought more than three times the high estimate. We were particularly encouraged to see competition across price points as well as a remarkable depth in the bidding coming from American private collectors.”
The next Master Paintings sale will take place this spring in New York on 22 April 2015, with the sale of The Weldon Collection, a remarkable assemblage of Dutch and Flemish paintings collected by the late Henry and June “Jimmy” Weldon over a period of several decades. The sale will offer works by Balthasar Van der Ast, Rachel Ruysch and Ambrosius Bosschaert, among others.