January’s Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture sales include extraordinary paintings from a wide variety of genres, including a touching Goya portrait of his grandson; the striking Susanna and the Elders by Batoni; masterpieces by Boucher, Turner, Bernini, Vernet and Greuze; and a strong group of Baroque Italian paintings from a Distinguished Private Collection, highlighted by the large-scale Aeneas on the Bank of the River Styx by Pietro Testa.
We are also honored to be offering a wide range of property from museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the High Museum of Art. Property from The Estate of Giancarlo Baroni, including paintings and works of art, will also be featured in the sale; select works from the collection will be offered in an evening sale on 29 January.
The sale totaled $58,230,315, highlighted by an exceptional work by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni from 1751, Susanna and the Elders, which exceeded the pre-sale estimate of $6/9 million. Five bidders battled for this major work and two determined phone bidders drove the final price to $11,394,500, a record for the artist at auction. Ten bidders fought for an unrecorded, recently-discovered Hans Memling devotional panel, Christ Blessing, which realized $4,114,500, also a record for the artist at auction (est. $1/1.5 million). The panel, which has been in the same New England collection for over 150 years, was completely unknown to scholars and collectors alike before it was discovered earlier this year.
George Wachter, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Worldwide, and Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department in New York, commented: “We were delighted to see that works by major hands like Batoni, Fragonard and Memling sold incredibly well, and collectors understand that these rare works do not come to the market often. There was tremendous international bidding throughout the week, particularly from Russian collectors, who are extremely interested in French and Italian 18th century work. There was international underbidding for French Rococo master Fragonard’s The goddess Aurora triumphing over Night; however, we’re pleased to announce that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the eventual winner of this wonderful work.”
Heidelberg with a Rainbow, commissioned from Joseph Mallord William Turner in 1840, sold for $4,562,500, while The goddess Aurora triumphing over Night by Jean-Honoré Fragonard surpassed its estimate of $1.8/2.5 million, realizing $3,834,500, and was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. An additional record for an artist at auction was made for The Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara withSaint Ursula protecting the Eleven Thousand Virgins with her cloak, selling for $3,050,500, above the high estimate of $2.5 million. A further highlight was Claude-Joseph Vernet’s Mediterranean harbor at sunset with the artist, his daughter Emilie Chalgrin, his son Carle Vernet, his daughter-in-law, Fanny Moreau, and his servant Saint-Jean, on a pier, a lighthouse and a natural arch beyond which fetched $2,546,500, well within estimate. During this sale, Sotheby’s set an additional seven artist records at auction including ones for François Boucher, whose Sleeping Bacchantes surprised by Satyrs sold for $2,098,500, Gerard van Spaendonck, whose Still life of roses, hyacinth, wallflower and other flowers in a lapis lazuli vase; Still life of narcissus, hyacinth and other flowers in a brown porphyry vase brought $1,650,500, Pietro Longhi whose The elephant achieved $1,314,500, and Jean-Baptiste Greuze, whose The hermit, or the distributor of rosaries brought $1,082,500.