Home Arts New York Mid-Season Old Masters Auction Brings Nearly $13 Million

New York Mid-Season Old Masters Auction Brings Nearly $13 Million

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With no seven-figure prizes on offer, Christie’s and Sotheby’s brought in $12.9 million in New York with their Old Masters mid-season sales this week. Nevertheless, specialists at both auction houses dismissed suggestions that the Old Masters market might be in trouble.

While Old Masters have dominated the art market for decades, the European Old Master category only accounted for 4% of the $67.8 billion in art market sales in 2022, according to the latest art market report edited by Art Basel and UBS.

Christie’s New York fetched $5 million ($6.3 million with fees) from two sales: A second auction of a single-owner painting collection amassed by Jacqui Eli Safra, film producer and descendant of the Lebanese Swiss Banking Family, which sold without reserve for $2.6 million ($3.2 million with fees) and a seasonal sale of old masters which brought in $2.4 million (3 million dollars with fees).

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot The heights of Sèvres – The Troyon path Courtesy of Christie’s

The most valuable work in the 74-lot Safra sale on May 24 was the painting of the French countryside by Jean-Baptiste-Cmile Corot, which sold for $280,000 ($352,800 with fees) against an estimate from $60,000 to $80,000. The second most valuable painting in the Safra sale depicted Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in Greek mythology, by female neoclassical artist Angelica Kauffman and sold for $170,000 ($214,000 with fees).

During the Seasonal Old Masters Sale on May 25, Christ before Pilate by Giuseppe Vermiglio sold for $380,000 ($478,000 including fees), making it the most valuable lot at auction. But one of the most surprising sales of the day was a portrait attributed to Frans Pourbus the Elder, which sold for $220,000 ($277,200 with fees) against an estimate of $50,000 to $80,000.

Christ before Pilate by Giuseppe Vermiglio Courtesy of Christie’s

While the share of Old Masters in the art market has declined over the past few decades, François de Poortere, international head of the Old Masters department at Christie’s, says the sales rate for the two mid-season sales is 88% per lot and 81% per low. estimate show that the market is still healthy. In January, sales of Christie’s Old Masters grossed $62.7 million, including $14.7 million from the first part of the Safra sale. In another sale between different owners in January, double portraits of a mother and daughter by Francisco Goya fetched $14 million ($16.4 million including fees), setting a new sales record. auction for the Spanish master.

“We keep proving that wrong,” De Poortere says of the idea that the old masters’ share of the market is slipping. “Great photos sell. Old masters, when you find the right material, are an incredibly vibrant market. He added: “Freshness is very important. The excitement of an image that hasn’t been seen in the market for a long, long time never dulls and people love it.

The two Sotheby’s sales including Old Masters brought in $6.6 million including fees. The first, an auction of Old Master paintings and 19th-century European art on May 26, fetched nearly $4.3 million ($5.4 million with fees) while an online sale which ran from May 18 to May 26, grossed $815,200 ($1 million with fees).

The most valuable lot at Sotheby’s was that of Jan Brueghel the Elder A village landscape with a market (1613), which grossed $889,000 with fees. Perhaps the most exciting sale was a painting of what is said to be Pompon, Marie Antoinette’s pet dog, by Jacques Barthélémy Delamarre. Offered without reservation, 15 bidders pushed the painting’s final price to $279,400 with fees against an estimate of $3,000-5,000. This result sets a new auction record for Delamarre’s work. (Sotheby’s also held a sale of 19th-century art on May 24 that brought in $1 million, including fees.)

Jan Brueghel the Elder A village landscape with a market Courtesy of Sotheby’s

“I’m very pleased with the market and the results,” says Christopher Apostle, head of old masters at Sotheby’s New York, who noted that the auction house’s modern sale earlier this month included a painting by well-behaved old masters: Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of a Man in March (circa 1620) grossed $22.5 million ($26.1 million with fees).

“What was interesting was introducing it to a new audience,” says Apostle. “I’ve seen people who weren’t old master buyers look at it and be tempted or amazed by the work.”

Nor does Apostle care about the art market’s appetite for Old Master works. “Great old masters are harder to find than any other field. And if you have something great, then you absolutely have buyers at a very high level,” says Apostle. He added that there has many old master works sold in the private market.

“I don’t worry so much about our percentage of the global market because we’re rare,” says Apostle.

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