AO Auction Results: Old Masters Week at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London – numerous records set at two ground-breaking auctions

December 10th, 2009

Self-Portrait, Sir Anthony van Dyck at Sotheby’s, London

As supply diminishes and demand increases for Old Master works, this week’s sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London may be remembered as significant in the recent history of the art market. Collectors seized the opportunity to purchase rare and significant works from the giants of European art history and pushed prices so high that numerous existing records were smashed. The auction of Old Masters and 19th Century Art at Christie’s on Tuesday, December 8, realized £68,380,250 – the highest ever total for an Old Masters auction. 2 of the top 5 prices ever paid for an Old Master work at auction were also witnessed at Christie’s in addition to new artist records for Raphael, Rembrandt and Domenichino. At Sotheby’s sale, a rare self-portrait of Anthony van Dyck that sold for £8,329,250, above the pre-sale estimate £2-3 million, helped bring the total within estimate at £15,098,250. Strong prices, record-breaking prices were also seen for works by the Dutch artist Cesar Boetius van Everdingen and the prominent British masters, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer and Samuel Scott.

More images, text and related links after the jump….

Shipping at anchor in the Thames Estuary, near Wapping
, Samuel Scott £481,250, handsomely within an estimate of £400,000-600,000.

Sotheby’s top lot, Anthony va Dyck’s Self-Portrait, was hotly pursued by nine bidders who drove the price far above the pre-sale estimate of £2-3 million and established a record-breaking price of £15,098,250 – the previous auction record for a work by van Dyck, set in 2008, was £3,065,250. The self-portrait was finally purchased by the Canadian businessman Alfred Bader in partnership with Philip Mould. Discussing his record-breaking purchase, the Art dealer Philip Mould said, “this is the most important 17th-Century British portrait to come on the market in the last two decades. It was an opportunity we could not miss.”

David Moore-Gwyn, Deputy Chairman, UK and Senior Specialist in Early British Paintings at Sotheby’s, said: “This was without doubt the most important portrait by van Dyck to come to auction in my 33-year career at Sotheby’s. Over the last few weeks and months the painting has attracted an enormous amount of interest and we are absolutely thrilled with tonight’s record-breaking result, which is testament to the rare opportunity that it’s sale – after 300 years in a family collection – represented.”

Head of a Muse, Raphael

The sale that grabbed the headlines this week was that of Raphael’s drawing, Head of a Muse, which sold at Christie’s for £29,161,250 – the 2nd highest price ever paid for any Old Master painting or drawing. The record price for any Old Master painting or drawing is The Massacre of the Innocents by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) which sold for £49,506,648 at Sotheby’s in 2002.

This drawing drew particular attention because of the major part it played in the execution of one of the masterpieces of European art – Raphael’s series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. The drawing is a study for the figure in Parnassus, the third in the famous series. It was sold at public auction this evening for the first time in over 150 years and was bought by an anonymous client on the telephone.

Portrait of a man with arms akimbo
, Rembrandt

Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo, a late portrait by Rembrandt sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for £20,201,250 – a record price for the artist at auction, and the 5th highest ever price for an Old Master sold at auction. Prior to the pre-sale exhibition at Christie’s it had been unseen in public for nearly 40 years, and was last offered at auction in 1930 when it sold for £18,500.

The Rock of Gibralter, J.M.W. Turner sold at Christie’s for £505,250 (estimate £250 – £350,000)

Saint John the Evangelist, Domenico Zampieri, Il Domenichino

A painting by Domenichino, described in Christie’s catalogue as “one of the most important Baroque pictures to be offered at auction for a generation,” was offered at auction of the first time in over 100 years and realized £9,225,250, another world record price for the artist at auction. The previous world record price for a work by Domenichino sold at auction was established when The Pietà realized £3,044,000 ($6,133,660) at Christie’s London on 5 July 2007.

Girl Holding a Basket of Plums, Cesar Boetius van Everdingen

Another considerable bidding battle ensued at Sotheby’s in competition for the previously unrecorded and unpublished painting by the Dutch artist Cesar Boetius van Everdingen. It saw interest from six potential buyers whose determined bids took the price to £1,161,250 – 16 times the pre-sale estimate of £50,000-70,000.

Return from the Staghunt, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, R.A.

The British master Sir Edwin Henry Landseer was represented at Sotheby’s by a Highland scene, Return from the Staghunt – the dramatic scenery of the Scottish Highlands had a profound influence on Landseer and his art and Scottish subjects came to dominate his oeuvre, with the most iconic of these being his hunting scenes.  Return from the Staghunt brought £937,250 against within the pre-sale estimate of £800,000-1.2 million. This ranks as the second highest price ever for a work by the artist at auction.

The Flemish Proverbs, Pieter Brueghel the Younger sold at Christie’s for £1,721,250 (estimate£1-1.5 million) via Christie’s

Related Links:
Christie’s Auction Shatter’s Old Masters Record
Van Dyck Portrait Soars at Solid Sotheby’s Auction [ArtInfo]
2 Star Lots Dominate Weak Old Masters Sale [NY Times]
A Record for Rembrandt [NY Times]
$48million Raphael: Good Value or Sucker Buy? [WSJ]
Luxury Purchases: The Rush for Real Assets [Financial Times]
Van Dyck Portrait Sets Record to Boost $24.6million Auction [Bloomberg]
A Self-Portrait by Antony Van Dyck Sells for £8.3million [BBC News]
Rembrandt, Raphael Pieces Break Auction Price Records [Independent]
Rembrandt and Raphael Sell for £50million at Record-Breaking Christie’s Auction []
Exceptional Self-Portrait of Sir Anthony Van Dyck Sells for a Record US$13,521,704 [ArtDaily]