The Old Masters Evening sale totalled an above-high-estimate result of £14,835,500. The beautifully preserved version of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Return from the Kermesse realised £2.6 million. This boisterous depiction of villagers returning from a country fair, full of merriment and abandon, enjoyed great popularity during the artist’s lifetime.
The second-highest price achieved was for an exceptional early Renaissance portrait by Titian and his studio, Portrait of two boys, said to be members of the Pesaro Family, which realised £2.1 million, ranking as the fourth highest price achieved at auction for any work by Titian. This striking work is a rarity in the genre of portraiture, as it is one of the first and very few double portraits in Renaissance painting. Its originality also lies in the intensely expressive representation of childhood, rarely seen in Titian’s oeuvre.
The sale also set five auction records including Lorenzo Lotto’s Portrait of an Architect which fetched £416,750 – a record price in sterling for the artist – and a magnificent 15th-century Italian gold-ground by the Master of the Osservanza – one of the most prominent Sienese artists of the first half of the 15th century – Flagellation, which fetched twice the high estimate at £1.4 million.
This December’s Old Masters Evening sale is led by three important private collections formed as early as 1650 and constituting 16th- and 17th-century Italian, Dutch and Flemish paintings by some of the greatest artists of their time. Leading these three collections is an enchanting portrait of two brothers by one of the greatest of all portraitists, Titian and his workshop. Other highlights include Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s beautifully preserved Return from the Kermesse and a jewel of a flower still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder.