The December 2013 sale of European Sculpture & Works of Art brought a total of £5,602,125 against a pre-sale estimate of £4-5.9 million. The top lot was a 13th-century ivory statuette of the Virgin and Child hidden in a private collection since the middle of the 20th century, which sold for £2,546,500, more than double the high estimate.
Erik Bijzet, Head of Auction Sales, European Sculpture & Works of Art, said: “Today’s results confirm the strong demand for Medieval artworks, new discoveries and pieces with noble provenance. We saw international bidding, with participation from Russia, Asia and the US. The top lot of the sale, the 13th-century ivory statuette of the Virgin and Child, brought £2.5 million, more than double the pre-sale high estimate. When a photograph of this object was presented to Sotheby’s, I immediately saw that it was very special. Uncovering documents, many of them centuries old, over a year-long research period revealed its full history. The price demonstrates that collectors are continuing to seek out the very best the market has to offer.”
The European Sculpture & Works of Art Department is amongst the broadest of collecting categories at Sotheby’s. The diversity of property cultivated by such practice has never been more apparent than in our upcoming Medieval to Modern sale on 4 December, which will offer works of extremely fine quality from across an extraordinary range of dates, countries and materials. Leading the sale is a newly discovered medieval ivory statuette representing the Virgin and Child Enthroned, which was miraculously preserved by the nuns of the Syon Monastery during their eventful three century-long exile on the European mainland. Later on, the ivory was treasured in the private chapels of the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Norfolk, but has since resided completely unnoticed in a small private collection.
Four full-length marble female figures representing the Seasons, carved by Carlo Nicoli in the late 19th century, are the most impressive marbles in the sale. Nicoli supplied a similar set of marbles for the façade of the Galleria Umberto I in Naples; the four figures offered at Sotheby’s were, until recently, kept at the artist’s family villa on Lake Lugano. Additional highlights of the sale include four small private collections of early rings, cameos and jewels dating from the Byzantine era to circa 1800, tabletop bronzes from the Renaissance to the 1920s and a range of Kunstkammer rarities.