Highlights to Celebrate 50 Years in Paris

Launch Slideshow

This year Sotheby’s Paris celebrates two important anniversaries – it’s 50 years since the first office opened in France and 20 years since the move to Galerie Charpentier. Since then the Paris headquarters has borne witness to numerous memorable events, while a multitude of exceptional objects have been sold at a series of landmark auctions over the years. Click ahead to see a selection of some legendary objects that have passed through the doors which, while not the highest value lots sold in Paris, tell the story of the last 50 years.

Highlights to Celebrate 50 Years in Paris

  • François-Xavier Lalanne, Bar Les Autruches, 1967-1970. Sold for €6,191,150. Paris, 21 November 2017.
    At the Jacques Grange Collection auction in 2017, bidders battled for iconic creations by François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, beloved French sculptors who looked to nature and the animal world for inspiration and aesthetic pleasure. The selection of fifteen pieces was led by the extraordinarily poetic and graceful Les Autruches Bar by François-Xavier. One of only six examples – three of which are held by institutions – the notable price for the piece was just shy of an overall record for the artist. In a personal note about this work to Grange, Claude had expressed ‘you fell in love with François-Xavier’s finest sculptures… I am glad they lived with you all these years and wish them happiness in their new life elsewhere’.


    Jacques Grange | Collectionneur
    Paris, 21 November 2017


  • Masque-double, Baulé. Sold for €5,411,000. Paris, 24 June 2015.
    The highest price of the African and Oceanic Arts sale in 2015 went to a masterpiece from the former Verité collection, the Double Baulé mask , sold by a private collector. A genuine icon, this achieved a world auction record for a Baule work and the second highest price ever achieved for an African mask. It was the key piece in two major African art exhibitions staged in Paris during the Fifties: Chefs-d’oeuvre de l’Afrique Noire, at the Galerie Leleu, and Les arts africains, at the Cercle Volney. Through its intensity of expression and high quality carving, this masterpiece reveals the genius of an outstanding master of precolonial Africa. Personifying twinship in one inseparable being, the faces are individualised in terms of colour and beauty, expressing the idea of duality at the heart of Baule thinking.


    Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie
    Paris, 24 June 2015

  • Pierre Soulages, Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 14 Avril 1962. Sold for €6,120,000. Paris, 6 June 2017.
    A new world auction record was achieved for a remarkable work by Pierre Soulages at the Contemporary Art sale in 2017. Estimated at €2 to 3 million, Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 14 Avril 1962 was competed for by ten bidders. This world record eloquently rewarded the skilful strategy adopted by the Sotheby's Paris teams, as well as their in-depth expertise and excellent knowledge of the market.


    Art Contemporain Vente du Soir
    Paris, 6 June 2017

  • Bernard Boutet de Monvel, S.A.R. le Maharadjah d’Indore. Sold for €2,499,000. Paris, 5 and 6 April 2016.
    Bernard Boutet de Monvel’s stunning portraits were hotly coveted at the 19th Century European Paintings sale in 2016. The previous auction record for the artist was broken twice with his famous 1934 depiction of the Oxford-educated Maharajah of Indore .


    Collection Boutet de Monvel
    Paris, 5 and 6 April 2016


  • Bernd et Hilla Becher, Wassertürme (Trichter). Sold for €411,000. Paris, 15 November 2015.
    This work achieved a world record for the artist at the Photographs sale in 2015. The only period series of these nine water towers in the form of a known funnel, this exceptional set was designed in 1972, a period that marks the first fruits of their international recognition. This work is characteristic of Becher in more than one way: the distancing effect, created by the systematic presentation inspired by taxonomy, and a standardized composition on each "portrait" emphasizing the frontality and the monumentality of industrial buildings classified by functionality and form. However, unlike their later work, this eminently characteristic style is still not so refined as to completely isolate photographed subjects from their environment.


    Back to Black

    Paris, 15 November 2015

  • Antoine-Sébastien Durant, Deux flambeaux identiques en argent, 1758-1759. Sold for €863,750. Paris, 18 December 2002.
    These two identical torches (1758-1759) quadrupled their estimate (€ 150,000–200,000) at the European Silver sale in 2002 and reached €863,750, a world record for a pair of silver candlesticks.


  • Cabinet en pierres dures, travail romain, provenant du pape Paul V Borghèse et du roi George IV, circa 1620. Sold for €2,499,000. Paris, 20 September 2016.
    The Balkany collection sale in 2016 was led by the Borghese-Windsor Cabinet - the most important Roman cabinet ever to have come onto the market – which sold to The J. Paul Getty Museum for €2,499,000 /$2,812,475 /£2,154,493, a world auction record for a piece of Roman furniture. Made in Rome circa 1620, this exceptional gilt-bronze mounted silver, ebony and hard stone cabinet boasts exceptional provenance, having belonged to Pope Paul V Borghese (1605–1621), before being acquired in 1824 by King George IV who displayed it in Windsor Castle. The cabinet remained in the Royal Collection until 1959, when it was bought by Aladar de Balkany, on the advice of his son who was passionate about architecture.


    Robert de Balkany, Rue de Varenne, Paris
    Paris, 20 September 2016


  • Exceptionnelle paire de candélabres aux caryatides d’époque Louis XVI. Sold for €1,408,750. Paris, 2 October 2008.
    The most keenly contested lot in the 2008 Important Furniture and Works of Art sale justified Monsieur Levy's decision to place it on the front-cover of the catalogue. The rare pair of Louis XVI candelabra , with Sèvres biscuit caryatids after Simon-Louis Boizot (1743–1809) and gilt-bronze mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) brought €1,408,750, a world record price for candelabra.  The candelabra were a gift from Louis XVI to the Princess of Asturias, future Queen of Spain, in 1785. They were later sold by Queen Isabella II (1830–1904), who went into exile in Paris around 1870, before entering the Rothschild Collection at Mentmore Towers.


    The Léon Lévy Collection: Important French Furniture and Works of Art
    Paris, 2 October 2008


  • Stéphane Mallarmé, Jamais un coup de dés n’abolira le Hasard, Autograph model for Firmin-Didot, printer of Ambroise Vollard 1897. Sold for €963,000. Paris, 15 October 2015.
    Composed in free verse, this autograph manuscript of the poem was sold for €963,000 to Marcel Brient to resounding applause after a lengthy bidding battle between collectors in the room at the 2015 Books sale. This legendary manuscript is one of the very first typographical poems in French literature. Spontaneous and airy, its genuine poetic and graphic revolution was achieved through the spatial layout of the words and play on the character sizes. Mallarmé himself created the exact page layout of the poem as he wished to see it printed, placing his words as a painter places brushstrokes on the canvas.


    De la bibliothèque Stéphane Mallarmé
    Paris, 15 October 2015


  • Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait de Paul Alexandre. Sold for €13,537,500. Paris, 4 June 2014.
    This famous painting dates from 1911/12 and portrays Modigliani’s first and major patron during the seven years after his arrival in France in 1907. It had never previously appeared on the market, having remained until the 2014 Impressionist and Modern Art sale in the ownership of Paul Alexandre’s descendants. Although the portrait is acknowledged in works of reference, it had been seen in public only rarely during prestigious exhibitions.


    Art Impressionniste et Moderne
    Paris, 4 June 2014


  • Rare et exceptionnel diptyque en ivoire de la Passion, France, Paris, circa 1360-1380. Sold for €4,064,250. Paris, 19 November 2007.
    This true masterpiece posted a record price for a medieval ivory at the European Sculpture & Works of Art sale in 2007 to become the most expensive work sold by Sotheby's in Paris since the opening of the French auction market. At just over 12in wide, when opened this is the largest Passion diptych recorded, and one of a limited group of large diptyches, inspired by the Life of Christ, that were made in Paris in the second half of the 14th century, and attributed in 1924 by Raymond Koechlin to the workshop of the ‘Passion Master.’


    The Dormeuil Collection, Medieval Ivories and Enamels
    Paris, 19 November 2007


  • Statuette de Vairocana en bronze doré Ming Dynasty, XV Century. Sold for €3,395,000. Paris, 10 June 2015.
    Impressive in its size, the large gilt bronze figure of Vairocana , also known as the supreme Buddha, is adorned with a regal crown and earrings befitting his stature while the simple robes of a monk denote humility and compassion. The face is a study of composure and intensity, imbuing the statue with a commanding presence. Indeed the deeply cut narrowed eyes, full mouth and broad features indicate the early Ming dynasty provenance of the bronze comparable to numerous mid-fifteenth century Chinese Buddhist sculptures, most notably a crowned Buddha of similar size in the Newark Museum.Only one other piece of this distinct 15th century type is known and it is in the collection of the Newark Museum.  It was a star of the Asian Arts sale in 2015.


    Asian Arts
    Paris, 10 June 2015


  • Jean-Etienne Liotard, Portrait de Mademoiselle Louise Jacquet. Sold for €1,464,750. Paris, 21 June 2012.
    This portrait of Mademoiselle Jacquet which was a highlights of the Old Master Paintings sale in 2012, probably dates ei­ther from the artist’s second stay in Paris (1748–52), or from his brief trip to Paris in Spring 1757. When Liotard arrived in Paris in 1748 he was already famous. In 1749 he was asked to paint the royal family and, in the wake of this commission, numerous courtiers and other influential figures asked him to do their portraits, ranging from Madame de Pompadour and Voltaire to well-known figures of the theatre such as Marivaux and the great actress Madame Favart. It is thus interesting to note that the portrait of Louise Jacquet, also an actress, was probably commissioned during this period.


    Tableaux et Dessins Anciens et du XIXe siècle
    Paris, 21 June 2012


  • Yves Saint Laurent, Autumn-Winter 1976-1977, Ballets Russes collection. Sold for €52,500. Paris, 3 October 2017.
    Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty paid the top price of €52,500 for an Yves Saint Laurent Russian collection ensemble at the Didier Ludot Coillection sale in 2017. The sale set a new record in France for a Haute Couture dress and the buyer is giving it to the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.


    Les Petites Robes Noires
    Collection Didier Ludot

    Paris, 3 October 2017



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