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Reclusive heiress’ long hidden Monet painting Sells for $27 Million at Christie’s May 2014 auction

January 31, 2014
Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1907 Estimate: $25-35 million.

Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1907
Estimate: $25-35 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $24 million (27.045,000 with the buyer’s premium).

UPDATE: The Monet opened at $15 million and climbed steadily, but not in a fevered pace, to a hammer price of $24 million, just under the $25 million low estimate. Complete results for this sale here.

ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s will be offering property from estate of Huguette Clark, the reclusive heiress who died in May 2011 at the age of 104.  As the New York Times obituary noted: “She was almost certainly the last link to New York’s Gilded Age, reared in Beaux-Arts splendor in a 121-room Fifth Avenue mansion awash in Rembrandt, Donatello, Rubens and Degas. Her father, a copper baron who once bought himself a United States Senate seat as casually as another man might buy a pair of shoes, had been born before the Mexican War.”

The 121-room mansion her father built on Fifth Avenue.

The 121-room mansion her father built on Fifth Avenue.

According to the Christie’s announcement, more than 400 items will be put to auction including “[f]our masterworks by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be presented in the Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art at Christie’s New York on May 6, followed by a dedicated sale titled An American Dynasty: The Clark Family Treasures on June 18.”

One of the stars is a 1907 Claude Monet Nymphéas, that has not been publicly exhibited since 1926. According to the announcement:

Huguette Clark purchased Claude Monet’s Nymphéas in 1930 in New York from the Durand-Ruel Galleries, whose Paris branch had jointly acquired the work with the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune directly from the artist ten years earlier.

Paintings by John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase will also be offered:

Leading the group of American Art is John Singer Sargent’s Girl Fishing at San Vigilio [(Estimate: $3-5 million)]  

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, 1913  Estimate: $3-5 million.

John Singer Sargent, Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, 1913
Estimate: $3-5 million.

San Vigilio was a small fishing village at the southern end of Lake Garda and Sargent was so taken with this picturesque locale that he referred
to the spot as “paradise” in a letter to his friend Ralph Curtis. In Girl Fishing at San Vigilio, painted in 1913, Sargent painted one of his companions fishing along the shore, draped in a cashmere shawl, which appears in many of Sargent’s compositions from the period.”

[ … ]

William Merrit Chase, A Water Fountain in Prospect Park, 1886-1887. Estimate: $700,000-1,000,000.

William Merrit Chase, A Water Fountain in Prospect Park, 1886-1887.
Estimate: $700,000-1,000,000.

William Merritt Chase’s A Water Fountain in Prospect Park (illustrated left; estimate: $700,000-1,000,000) was painted in Brooklyn, New York in 1886. It depicts a water fountain near the lake in the park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects also responsible for Central Park. This small work was probably painted en plein air at the park and belongs to a series of works he painted in the same park between 1886 and 1887. In 1915, Chase was commissioned to paint a portrait of Senator Clark and it has been surmised that this painting was given to Clark as a token for having commissioned the portrait.

A Degas that should have been part of the cache is instead with the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. In March 2012  MSNBC reported about that a $10 million Degas ballerina painting was stolen sometime in the 1990′s from Clark’s extensive Fifth Avenue apartment complex overlooking New York’s Central Park. It ended up in the home of Henry Bloch (the “H” in H&R Block),  who purchased it in good faith.  Even after the theft was discovered and the FBI brought in, the very private Clark declined to make a stink lest the affair become public.

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