2014 Old Masters Week Results, Christie’s & Sotheby’s Shy of 2013 Figures

As Sotheby’s announced on Wednesday, the disbursement of $325 million to shareholders, the auction house also grabbed headlines yesterday, by wrapping up Old Masters Week with sale results of approximately $73 million* A new auction sale, introduced this year by Sotheby’s, The Courts of Europe, surpassed its pre-sale high estimate with total sales of $17.4 million. Important Old Master Paintings & Sculpture totaled $51.4 million, works from the Dutch Golden Age performing especially well. While its competitor, Christie’s posted sales of $68 million, short of $82.4 million results achieved last year (note: all realized prices include buyer’s premium, as high as 25% – conveniently added to the final hammer price, obviously resulting in slightly inflated prices, yet another flaw of the art market). For a second year, Christie’s marquee Renaissance auction realized $44 million worth of art sales with approximately 65% of lots sold (up from $42 million in 2013). The slight increase in numbers can be attributed to a 50% increase in lots for sale (75 lots on the auction block this year, in contrast to 50 lots for sale in 2013). Considering the substantial increase in lots for sale at Christie’s Renaissance auction, and with only a meager $2 million increase, the auction house was no doubt disappointed with results. The week’s disappointment might not end there for Christie’s as their Old Master Painting Part I overall sales fell to $15.8 million (in contrast to $19.9 million in 2013). The majority of lots sold during this auction, hovered near low estimate prices. And finally, Christie’s drawings & watercolors failed to make a mark with $1.3 million sales (in comparison to $16.5 million worth of sales last year).

Highlights and Disappointments from Old Masters Week:
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Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self Portrait as a Lute Player, who crowned Christie’s Old Master Painting Part I’s sales catalogue failed to sell (the highest bid was $2 million, while the estimate was between $3 – $5 million).

Perhaps a slightly controversial choice, I would consider Christie’s The Rothschild Bible, a bit of a disappointment, consider all the excitement surrounding the sale of this unique and rare piece. I was anticipating competitive bidding to exceed its 1999 sale price of $13.4 million.

Now for some good news:
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Over the course of Old Masters week, there was a strong interest in objects, in particular bronze sculptures – exceeding high estimated values. Bust of Louis XVIII, possibly by Baron Francois-Joseph Bosio sold at Christie’s for an impressive $341,000 (while estimated at $30,000 – $50,000).

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Giovanni Martino Spanzotti’s Four Apostles also turned heads with a final sale price of $305,000 (selling for nearly four times its high estimate price)

Moving on to Sotheby’s lots:

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Rather unsurprisingly, Jean-Honore Fragonard’s Two Girls on Bed Playing with Dog did not sell.

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As reported by Marion Maneker from the Art Market Monitor, three lots recovered by the American Allies’ Monuments Men sold for an overwhelming total of $1.5 million. Leading the sale of these recovered pieces: Apollonio di Giovanni’s Triumph of Marcus Furius Camillus, achieving $701,000 (more than tripled pre-sale estimate).

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And, finally, yet another high price for a bronze: Samson slaying the Philistine attributed to Willem van Tetrode sold for $3.3 million, more than double the high estimate.

Holly knows art. More sales next week, Impressionist & Modern works…stay tuned for more commentary!

*Rough approximate including final number of Old Master & 19th Century Art sale from Friday, 31 January 2014 – final figures to be published at a later date.

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