Remarkable Auction Highlights from Canadian Consignors

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Established in 1967 and celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, Sotheby’s Toronto is Sotheby’s longest-standing regional office. Our central location in Toronto’s famed Yorkville neighborhood provides clients with a full range of services, resulting in remarkable consignments and sales across categories and around the globe. Click ahead to read the stories behind these memorable works with Canadian provenance.

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Remarkable Auction Highlights from Canadian Consignors

  • James Wilson Morrice, Evening Stroll, Venice. Sold for CAD $1,497,500 at Sotheby's Toronto.
    This James Wilson Morrice canvas, which more than tripled its high estimate, captures the nostalgic melancholy of Venice. The scene is at once mysterious, luxurious and peaceful. Morrice’s numerous paintings of the city's piazzas, canals, churches and the iconic campanile, at all times of the day and seasons of the year, attest to the artist's enduring fascination with La Serenissima's unique charms. 

  • Private collection of rare wines to benefit the Quebec Fine Arts Museum Foundation.
    Donated to the Quebec Fine Arts Museum's Foundation by a sophisticated collector, this consignment featured an astounding selection of some of Burgundy’s and Bordeaux's greatest producers. Proceeds from the sale benefited the Museum's expansion with the construction of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion. Designed by OMA, this new architectural landmark in Quebec City added 140,000 feet for Modern and contemporary art and international exhibitions.  
  • Jean-Paul Lemieux, Country Club. Sold for CAD $1,095,000 at Sotheby’s Toronto.
    In this exceptional painting, Lemieux has found the perfect subject for depicting Québécois society – a conversation between two ladies lunching at the country club. Their elegant dresses and their splendid and attractive hats make them among the most wonderful of all of Lemieux’s countless figures.  

  • Ancestor Figure, Uli, Mandak Area, Central New Ireland. Sold for €1,609,500 at Sotheby’s Paris.
    This captivating sculpture came from the superb collection of oceanic art from Polynesia and Melanesia formed by the late Murray Frum. The collection featured a variety of objects from across the island nations and was considered the most significant group to come to market in the last 30 years. Sotheby's offered this collection of approximately 49 works for sale in Paris on 16 September 2014. Unsurprisingly it was a white glove auction in which every work found a buyer. With an auction total of €7,530,838, almost $10 million, this set a new world auction record for a sale of oceanic art.

  • Federico del Campo, A View Of The Grand Canal With The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti. Sold for $682,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
    Peruvian artist Federico del Campo is renowed for his extraordinary views of Venice, vedute, which were among the most-prized souvenirs of travelers in the 1880s and 1890s, known for their technical precision, lively brushwork and luminous palette. The present work’s sweeping, sun-drenched panorama opens onto the Grand Canal, with the dome of Santa Maria della Salute visible in the distance. Del Campo animates this otherwise serene scene with a few gondoliers and boats making their way up and down the river, an elegant pair of figures seated on a barge at the far right, and a fashionable woman at left shielding herself from the midday sun with a pink parasol as she watches over a group of boys playing in a small boat. 

  • Henri Fantin-Latour, Phlox. Sold for $706,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
    This intimate painting of a vase of phlox in a glass vase came from the collection of the iconic Canadian family, the Oslers. The family produced generations of dynamic leaders within an evolving British North American culture, including prominent financiers, lawyers and a world-famed physician, Sir William Osler, the most eminent member of the McGill Medical faculty, founding Physician-in-Chief at Johns Hopkins University and Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford. By the 1920s, Edward Glyn Osler, K.C., a fifth-generation member of the family and an esteemed Toronto lawyer, had developed an interest in Impressionist painting, and acquired the Henri Fantin-Latour painting featured here. 
  • A Huanghuali Painting Table Late Qing Dynasty. Sold for $514,000 at Sotheby’s New York.
    This fine huanghuali painting table is notable for its impressive size. Tables of this type were used by Chinese artists and scholars to spread out rolls of paper in order to paint artistic compositions or write calligraphy.  The well-constructed floating panel top of great width and depth makes this table one of the largest of its kind. It is finely worked in the classic form of the Ming dynasty: with its simple yet elegant form, enhanced by the cloud-shaped spandrels and the attractive grain pattern of the warm reddish-brown-colored huanghuali, this exceptional piece truly captures the quintessence of Ming furniture.

  • Qi Baishi, Eagle Perching On The Pine . Sold for $1,986,500 at Sotheby's New York.
    Qi Baishi was a self-taught painter who became one of the most influential artists of 19th century China. His eagle paintings were inspired by the 17th century individualist artist Bada Shanren and can be read as a symbol of victory, pride and strength. This particular example of Qi Baishi’s work, executed with a few yet decisive, masterly brushstrokes, is typical of his oeuvre. 

  • Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Grand View of the Sea Shore Enriched with Buildings, Shipping and Figures. Sold for $7,026,500 at Sotheby’s New York.
    In this large-scale painting, the beauty of the surface, in concert with the scale of the work, draws the viewer into this imaginary harbor. The sun is nearing the horizon and its light reflects off the clouds above and the water below. Although ships' pennants are waving in a breeze, there is a kind of stillness and softness in the air, a silvery pink glow that is characteristic of Vernet at his best. The painting was commissioned in October 1774 by William Petty, Earl of Shelburne, a well-known society figure and collector, whose patronage increased Vernet’s reputation in Britain. 


  • J.R.R Tolkien, Fine Autograph Letter Signed ("J.R.R. Tolkien") To John Kettle. Sold for £9,375 at Sotheby’s London.
    This important Tolkien letter references The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion; it is rare to find all three mentioned in the same letter. Tolkien opens the letter thanking the recipient for his letter, saying, “it is not often that people write to an author… it is, I must say, a very pleasant sort of letter to get…” The letter mentions characters from The Lord of the Rings while Tolkien was working on the book Trother the Ranger which would become Strider the Ranger. The recipient of Tolkein's letter was John Kettle, a student at the Felsted School in Ledbury, Herefordshire, England.

  • Georges Mathieu, Hommage A Dollard Des Ormeaux. Sold for €295,500 at Sotheby’s Paris.
    Nineteen-sixty-three was a pivotal year for Georges Mathieu. In March of that year, as his recently released book Au-delà du tachisme met with strong criticism, he departed for the Galerie Dominon in Montréal where Hommage à dollard des ormeaux was exhibited. A critic said of the work, “Mathieu’s painting is fascinating. It draws you in with speed, incisiveness, minimalism and its nervous yet smooth graphics, charged with certain vitality, give the canvas purpose and rhythm.” Shortly after the exhibition, Mathieu’s first retrospective opened at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Hommage à dollard des ormeaux is emblematic and representative of Mathieu’s work produced in that period, widely considered his best. The forms and colours in this painting burst from the canvas with a dynamism that echoes the artist’s own determination and his passionate positions on both artistic and societal matters.


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