11 Artworks that Topped $5 Million in Two Weeks

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Between 27 January and 11 February, Sotheby’s sold more than $400 million of Old Master, Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art in London and New York. With several record-setting lots, including Gentileschi’s picturesque Danaë and Rodin’s evocative Iris, Messagère des dieux, demand was high for works from across four centuries. Click ahead to see the season’s best sellers thus far.

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The Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Old Masters
Master Paintings Evening Sale
Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Surrealist Art Evening Sale
Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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11 Artworks that Topped $5 Million in Two Weeks

  • Orazio Gentileschi, Danaë. Sold for $30,490,000.
    Achieving $97.5 million, Sotheby’s 2016 Masters Week fetched the highest total in five years for a series of its kind at Sotheby’s in New York. The leading lot and undisputed masterpiece was Gentileschi’s Danaë, which sold to applause. One of the most important Italian Baroque paintings to come to market since World War II, and now a record work for the artist, Danaë was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum.

  • Pablo Picasso, Tête de femme. Sold for £18,853,000 ($27,144,549).
    This elegant and radiant 1935 portrait of Picasso’s greatest muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, achieved the highest price at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale in London. One of the artist’s most geometrically complex renderings of his beloved mistresses, this painting depicts a pregnant Marie-Thérèse, as indicated by the crescent moon, a symbol of Diana, goddess of fertility, across her face.

  • Lucian Freud, Pregnant Girl. Sold for £16,053,000 ($24,325,111).
    Leading Sotheby’s $100.5 million Contemporary Art Evening sale in London was Freud’s Pregnant Girl, which more than doubled its low estimate to set a record for an early painting by the artist. No less than six bidders competed for the depiction of Freud’s young lover Bernadine Coverley, shown asleep and pregnant with their first daughter, Bella. In this entrancing portrait, Freud captures an intensely private moment, one that would become a defining image in his œuvre.

  • Auguste Rodin, Iris, Messagère des dieux. Sold for £11,573,000 ($16,662,805).
    Cast between 1902 and 1905, this example of Rodin's Iris, Messagère des dieux is one of only seven known lifetime casts of this daringly erotic work. Suspended in mid-air, this image of the female body defies gravity. Once owned by Sylvester Stallone, the sculpture set a new auction record for the artist in British Pounds.

  • Claude Monet, Le Palais Ducal vu de Saint-Georges Majeur. Sold for £11,573,000 ($16,662,805).
    Monet’s spectacular view of the Palazzo Ducale on the Grand Canal belongs to the series he completed in Venice in the autumn of 1908. Through a Renaissance-inspired sfumato technique, he conjures the city of water in its architectural splendour. Of the artist’s 36 Venice pictures, half now reside in museum collections.

  • Henri Matisse, La Leçon de piano. Sold for £10,789,000 ($15,534,002).
    Painted in 1923, La Leçon de piano is one of the finest interior compositions from Matisse’s early Nice period – combining his skills as a colourist with an intimate portrayal of his three young sitters deeply absorbed in their activities. The vibrant and highly patterned fabrics that make up the interior have become synonymous with Matisse’s art from the 1920s. The present composition is centred around the figures of Henriette Darricarrère, Matisse’s favourite model of this era, and her two younger brothers, who come to life in this video reimagining.

  • Alberto Burri, Sacco e Rosso. Sold for £9,109,000 ($13,802,868).
    The Sacchi, identifiable by their distinctive use of burlap, are Burri’s most celebrated works. This version was one of the last to be executed and is the largest of the fifteen Sacco e Rosso works in existence. Neither painting nor sculpture, Sacco e Rosso encapsulates the collective shock of the Italian post-war mood and is of unrivalled quality. A highlight of the 2015 Burri retrospective at the Guggenheim, this painting set a new auction record for the artist.

  • Paul Delvaux, Le Miroir. Sold for £7,317,000 ($10,535,017).
    “For Paul Delvaux, the mirror is a source of knowledge, a tool for revealing self-awareness…” says Konrad Scheurmann quoted in Barbara Emerson's Delvaux (MercatorFonds, 1985). “It tells the truth, exposing vanity and human frailty.” When this monumental painting was last sold in 1999, it set an auction record for the artist. Almost two decades later, the work not only led the Surrealist portion of the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale in London, but it set an auction record for the artist yet again.

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Head of Madman). Sold for £6,197,000 ($9,390,314).
    Searing in its electric immediacy, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Head of Madman) is a truly masterful articulation of the artist’s groundbreaking portraiture. This specific work is one of fifteen compelling drawings executed by the artist in 1982, all of which were focused on portrayals of the human head. “The Hair was a focal point… the dreadlocks, Basquiat’s own version of a crown…” Phoebe Hoban wrote in Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art (Quartet Books, 1998). “Next the eyes. There was that look… People said his eyes could eat through your face, see right through you, zap you like the x-ray vision of his comic book heroes.”

  • Andy Warhol, Large Campbell’s Soup Can. Sold for £5,133,000 ($7,778,035).
    Instantly recognisable, Large Campbell’s Soup Can is the archetypal Andy Warhol artwork. Warhol’s artistry was built on an innate understanding of American post-war consumerism, and he craved subjects with instant familiarity. Although soup cans were so ubiquitous as to be entirely unremarkable, Warhol elevated ordinary objects into a new context and demanded they experience renewed aesthetic consideration.

  • Valentin de Boulogne, The Crowning with Thorns. Sold for $5,178,000.
    Leading the Collection of A. Alfred Taubman: Old Master sale, which totalled $24.1 million, this masterpiece of Baroque naturalism was among the first known pictures painted by de Boulogne, Caravaggio’s most accomplished French follower. A new world auction record for the artist, this painting sold for more than double its high estimate of $2 million.

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