Van Ruisdael, A Ruined Castle Gateway, all photos courtesy of Sotheby’s
Though not offered as much of a media spotlight as May’s auspicious and highly publicized Contemporary Art Auctions, today’s Old Masters at Sotheby’s was not entirely bereft of the spring auctions’ over-the-top price tags and bidding wars.
The belle of the ball came early in the sale when Lot 5, a landscape painting by Jacob Isaacksz Van Ruisdael with an estimate of $100,000- 150,000, sold at the Hammer Price of $725,000. Sandwiched between several unsold lots, this work was an unpredictable success, garnering a sales price well beyond the scope of its estimate. Van Ruisdael’s auction record price was set in 2005, with a work that sold for $4.5 million; this anomaly aside, his work generally ranges from the $100,000-$400,000 range. A Ruined Castle Gateway measures only 10 7/8 by 14 3/4 inches, but in spite of the work’s need for restoration and its small size, the painting is a beautiful example of Arcadian landscape portraiture. The painting’s ruined walls harken back to the Roman Empire and ideals of classicism, and are a hallmark trait of Van Ruisdael’s work.
Another of the few works with a sale price higher than its estimate was a similar Arcadian landscape by Giovanni Paolo Panini, entitled Capriccio of Roman Monuments with the Collosseum and Arch of Constantine. Panini’s landscape illustrates the long-standing art collecting tradition typical of British men of means while on the Grand Tour. Between Panini and Van Ruisdael’s successes today these two sales certainly evince the fact that there is still very much a place for stunning examples of Old Master landscape paintings. With an estimate of $400,000-600,000 and a hammer price of $675,000 this work was certainly notable, and it is somewhat surprising that its sale did not cause more of a stir. Formerly in the collection of the late Jan Mitchell, a redeemer of restaurants, classical American success story and a patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Panini’s painting comes with hefty vetting.
There was success beyond Arcadia’s hallowed grounds. Not surprisingly, Lot 36, The Outdoor Wedding Feast, attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Studio hammered down at $425,000, while Luis Melendez‘s Still Life with Peaches, Pears and Grapes sold for $510,000, again surpassing its $200-300,000 estimate.
Sotheby’s Old Masters Auction [Sotheby’s