Auctioneer Henry Wyndham presides over the rostrum at the Old Master Paintings sale in New York.
NEW YORK - Old Masters Week at Sotheby's New York culminated with a series of successful sales featuring well over 500 important drawings, paintings and sculptural works, including art that emerged from the historic Courts of Europe. The sale series brought a combined $71.7 million.
Brueghel the Younger’s The Bird Trap sold for $2,741,000.
The 71 lots presented at the auction of Old Master Paintings on the morning of 30 January realized $43,385,750, including Buyer's Premiums. Collectors had clearly come prepared to vie for certain notable selections. Multiple bidders campaigned for the third lot of the sale, a panoramic painting from a cassone panel by Florentine artist Apollonio di Giovanni; the 15th century work, the Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, surpassed its high estimate of $200,000 and sold to a phone bidder for $701,000. Shortly after that, a Virgin and child by Joos Van Cleve brought an impressive $1,445,000, doubling its high estimate. A pair of participants traded back-and-forth bids for what proved to be one of the sale's premier lots: Pieter Brueghel the Younger's depiction of Summer: figures eating during the summer harvest, which reached $5,205,000 before the hammer sounded. A second work by Brueghel the Younger, in this instance an expansive wintertime scene known as The Bird Trap, realized $2,741,000.
Gerrit Van Honthorst’s A Merry Group Behind a Balustrade With a Violin and a Lute Player sold for $7,557,000.
The sale's top-selling work came midway through this crowded morning session. A recently rediscovered group painting of musicians by Gerrit Van Honthorst sold for $7,557,000 – following spirited bidding – to the same collector who acquired the Brueghel painting of summer. The jubilant energy spilled over into several of the next lots; phone bidders secured The duet by Jan Miense Molenaer for $2,405,000 – or more than $1 million above its high estimate – and The annunciation by El Greco, which at $5,877,000 exceeded its high estimate by more than $4 million.
El Greco’s The annunciation sold for $5,877,000.
An afternoon session on 30 January focused exclusively on works commissioned by courtly patrons. Throughout the Renaissance and beyond, the support of noble families in the Italian states, France, Russia and beyond was crucial to the advancement of European art. The 42 lots presented garnered $17.6 million in total sales. An early standout was Portrait of a gyrfalcon, viewed from three sides. A hush fell over the audience as bids escalated well past the $1,000,000 high estimate for this painting – executed by an unnamed Lombard Master sometime between 1540-1560. The final price: $3,189,000. That high-water mark was soon surpassed by the $3,301,000 sale to a phone bidder of Samson Slaying the Philistine, a table-top bronze attributed to the sculptor Willem Van Tetrode that was expected to sell for between $800,000-1,200,000. Despite a slow start, bidding for another lot of sculpture – a set of four marble reliefs by Bertel Thorvaldsen depicting figures from mythology – suddenly gained momentum and finally sold for $2,405,000 to a bidder on the floor. Also selling for $2,000,000 was The Sleep of Venus, a François Boucher painting commissioned by the Marquise de Pompadour, maîtresse en titre of the French king Louis XV.
A Lombard Master’s Portrait of a gyrfalcon, viewed from three sides sold for $3,189,000.
At the Old Master Drawings sale, held on 29 January, a host of lots attracted serious bidding from multiple parties in attendance, calling in, and following the sale online. Total sales for the 176 lots presented amounted to just over $4 million, including Buyer's Premiums. Study of the head of a man, turning to his right, shouting, a ribbon around his head, a red chalk drawing on paper ascribed to the Florentine School of the 17th century, prompted a volley of phone bids, which sent the price for this playful yet classically grounded study well past its high estimate. Expected to bring between $15,000-20,000, the artwork sold for $40,625. Just a few moments later, a Santi di Tito drawing known as Agony in the garden, the property of a distinguished American private collection, sold for $56,250, eclipsing its high estimate of $25,000. From the same American collection came the auction's sole work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a Portrait of Ottaviano Castelli in red and black chalk, heightened with white. Bernini's portrait drawings are rare, and rarer still are those in which the sitter is identifiable. (Castelli was a musician and playwright, seven years Bernini's junior.) The drawing ultimately went to a phone bidder for $233,000. The American collection in question also contributed one of the auction's drawings by Venetian artist Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, whose father was the famous master Giovanni Battista; Giandomenico's God the Father in glory sold well above its $18,000 high estimate for $40,625.
Giandomenico’s Punchinello collapses on the road sold for $695,000.
A European collection consigned two highly realized Giandomenico drawings for sale, both of which sold, as well: Punchinello collapses on the road, sold for $695,000 to a bidder on the auction floor while Incontro al molo: a 'codega' showing the way to a noble couple on a molo, was snatched up by a phone bidder for $725,000.
Drawings whose makers remain a mystery fared very well at auction, evidenced not just by the aforementioned head study out of the Florentine School. One particularly sought-after lot from the collection of Denys Sutton was sold to a phone bidder for an impressive $70,000; the 16th century Venetian School drawing – depicting mountain landscapes on both sides of its sheet - was estimated to reach $7,000-9,000. Similarly, the little-known artist Benoît Blanc's exquisitely handled portrait in profile of Madame Léonie Bouchage sold to a phone bidder for $43,750, greatly surpassing its $5,000-7,000 estimate.