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Even in death, Taubman is still a drag on Sotheby’s with a sluggish Old Masters sale

January 27, 2016
Lot 62. THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH R.A. SUDBURY 1727 - 1788 LONDON THE BLUE PAGE Oil on canvas, with an addition of approximately 3 1/2 inches across the bottom 65 by 44 1/2 in.; 165.5 by 113 cm. Estimate: $3-4 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 62. THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH R.A. SUDBURY 1727 – 1788 LONDON THE BLUE PAGE
Oil on canvas, with an addition of approximately 3 1/2 inches across the bottom
65 by 44 1/2 in.; 165.5 by 113 cm.
Estimate: $3-4 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $2.7 million ($3.25 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

It’s unclear how Sotheby’s had hoped their $500 million bet and multiple themed-sales would rehabilitate the image of their former CEO, ex-con and shopping center developer Alfred Taubman – certainly not with the B-/C+ Gainsborough (above), one of the star lots in this evening’s sale of Old Master Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. The sale brought in $20,010,000 ($24,128,750 inclusive of buyer’s premiums), below its $21-30 million estimate (pre-sale estimates do not include the buyer’s premiums); of the 67 lots offered, none were withdrawn and 17 failed to sell.  The sale came amid discouraging news for the folks at 72nd & York:  Sotheby’s Announces Significant Losses in Its Historic Taubman Sale trumpeted a recent ArtNet News headline, while the New York Times reported: “The company is … dealing with the problematic $515 million guarantee it paid to auction the collection of its former chairman, A. Alfred Taubman. Last year, it recouped $437.8 million of that investment. The remaining works carry a low estimate of $24 million.” That was followed by this announcement: Sothebys (BID) Downgraded by Zacks Investment Research to “Sell.”

The first significant work was lot 5 (below), the Carracci of The Last Supper, opened at $95,000 and saw steady bidding that took it to a hammer price of $230,000 ($286,000 with fees).  The small Raphael portrait, a not very dynamic image, but rare none the less, opened at $1 million and was sought after by two telephone bidders – it made $2.7 million ($3.25 million with fees). Works by Bartolomeo Passarotti got the cold shoulder, with a Study of a Sleeping Woman and a portrait of Spanish nobleman, Don Lope Varona both failing to sell, despite the latter being deeply discounted below its $500,000-700,00o estimate – it tanked at $230,000.  Next up a Beccafumi drawing that also failed followed by Lot 12, the Beccafumi Madonna and Child (below) that sold for one half of its $2 million low estimate – $1 million ($1.21 million with fees).  Discounts abounded, lot 15 a Venetian School oil lamp hammered for $23,000 ($28,750 with fees) against a $60,000 low estimate; lot 17, the Grinling Gibbons carving (below) made $130,000 ($162, 500 with fees) against a $250,000 low estimate; and lot 18, a Campagnola drawing only got $13,000 ($16,250 with fees) against a $25,000 low estimate.

The sale perked up with lot 20, the wonderful Crowning with Thorns by Valentine de Boulogne (below), estimated at $1.5-2 million, it opened at $800,000 and climbed steadily to a hefty $4.4 million ($5,178,000 with fees), and the evening’s most expensive work.  This was followed by lot 21, the weird and clunky Ligozzi (below), that opened at $180,000 and bombed at $220,000, against an astonishing estimate of $600,000-800,000. Another deeply discounted work, lot 26 by Sorgh (below), hammered at $500,000 ($610,000 with fees), against an $800,000 low estimate. A wan Durer drawing of Christ being nailed to the cross stopped at $720,000 against a $1-1.5 million estimate.  The sale again got interesting with lot 30, the Stomer Christ disputing with the doctors (below), a dramatic and intriguing picture that opened at $500,000 and sailed past its $1.5 million high estimate to hammer for $2.2 million ($2.65 million with fees).

A muddy Pietro da CortonaChrist and the woman taken in adultery, lot 31, went well below its $600,000 low estimate to make $400,000 ($490,000 with fees), while a cloying Guercino Penitent Magdalene tanked at $220,000, against a $500,000 low estimate. Other bargain basement lots included lot 44, a Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo group of classical figures that hammered at $270,000 ($334,000 with fees), against a $600,000 low estimate; a drawing by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, lot 46, that made $85,000 ($106,250 with fees), but had a $150,000 low estimate; and another by Giovanni Battista painting of a Toothpuller that made only $90,000 ($112,500 with fees), against a $200,000 low estimate.

Scenes of Venice drew a pulse with lot 49, a Pietro Bellotti of the Grand Canal racing past its $200,000 high estimate to make $400,000 ($490,000 with fees), followed by a very respectable Bernardo Bellotto of the Grand Canal (below), that comfortably surpassed its $2 million high estimate to hammer for $2.5 million ($3.01 million with fees) to a telephone bidder.  A handsome plan of the Petit Trianon attributed to Richard Mique, lot 53, nearly doubled its $80,000 to hammer for $150,000 ($187,500 with fees), to the same buyer as the Bellotto.

English pictures didn’t find much love, with several selling on the cheap – lot 57 by Herring, $32,000 ($40,000 with fees), despite a $60,000 low estimate; lot 58, Romney’s Portrait of Mrs. Jordan as Peggy in “The Country Girl” only made $45,000 ($56,250 with fees), not a $70,000 low estimate; and lot 60, an Arthur Devis that hammered at $48,000 ($60,000 with fees), against a $100,000 low estimate.  The Gainsborough Blue Page opened at $1.8 million and climbed ever so slowly to a hammer price of $2.7 million ($3.25 million with fees), to a telephone bidder. Most of the remaining lots sold below estimate and the sale closed with the final lot, an Ingres portrait, tanking at $130,000 against a $200,000 low estimate.

Lot 5. AGOSTINO CARRACCI BOLOGNA 1557 - 1602 PARMA THE LAST SUPPER Bears numbering in black ink, lower right (partially cut): 68 Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk, squared in black chalk 10 3/8 by 14 in.; 263 by 354 mm Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 5. AGOSTINO CARRACCI BOLOGNA 1557 – 1602 PARMA THE LAST SUPPER
Bears numbering in black ink, lower right (partially cut): 68
Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk, squared in black chalk: 10 3/8 by 14 in.; 263 by 354 mm
Estimate: $150,000-250,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $230,000 ($286,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

According to the sale catalogue: “Philip Pouncey, who recognized it as a full-size modello for a small painting, executed on copper, now in the Pinacoteca, Ferrara (below). The painting was originally inserted, together with another, The Gathering of the Manna, traditionally attributed to Lodovico , in a wooden tabernacle, or ciborium, on the high altar of the Ferrarese church of San Cristoforo alla Certosa.”

Agostino Carracci, The Last Supper, Pinacoteca, Ferrara Click on image to enlarge.

Agostino Carracci,
The Last Supper, Pinacoteca, Ferrara
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 8. RAFFAELLO SANZIO, CALLED RAPHAEL URBINO 1483 - 1520 ROME PROFILE PORTRAIT OF VALERIO BELLI, BUST LENGTH, FACING LEFT Inscribed on the reverse Fatto dell'ano 1517 in Rom(a?) / Rafael Urbinate, in the upper section, RAFAEL VRBINATES PINXIT ROM(A?) (...) on the inside rim of the lid and Nacqu(?) ao di 147(6?) (...) 46. in the lower section Oil on panel, a roundel overall diameter: 4 15/16 in.; 12.5 cmpainted surface diameter: 4 in.; 10.1 cm Estimate: $2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 8. RAFFAELLO SANZIO, CALLED RAPHAEL URBINO 1483 – 1520 ROME
PROFILE PORTRAIT OF VALERIO BELLI, BUST LENGTH, FACING LEFT
Inscribed on the reverse Fatto dell’ano 1517 in Rom(a?) / Rafael Urbinate, in the upper
section, RAFAEL VRBINATES PINXIT ROM(A?) (…) on the inside rim of the lid and Nacqu(?)
ao di 147(6?) (…) 46. in the lower section
Oil on panel, a roundel
overall diameter: 4 15/16 in.; 12.5 cmpainted surface diameter: 4 in.; 10.1 cm
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $2.7 million ($3.25 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 12. DOMENICO BECCAFUMI CORTINE IN VALDIBIANA MONTAPERTI 1484 - 1551 SIENA MADONNA AND CHILD WITH THE INFANT SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA Oil on panel, in a painted tondo overall:26 1/4 by 25 7/8 in.; 66.4 by 65.7 cmpainted surface diameter: 24 ¾ in.; 65.5 cm Estimate: $2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 12. DOMENICO BECCAFUMI CORTINE IN VALDIBIANA MONTAPERTI 1484 – 1551 SIENA
MADONNA AND CHILD WITH THE INFANT SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND SAINT
CATHERINE OF SIENA
Oil on panel, in a painted tondo
overall:26 1/4 by 25 7/8 in.; 66.4 by 65.7 cmpainted surface diameter: 24 ¾ in.; 65.5 cm
Estimate: $2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $1 million ($1.21 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 16. AMBROSIUS BENSON LOMBARDY (?) LATE 15TH CENTURY - BEFORE 1550 BRUGES VIRGIN AND CHILD oil on panel 5 3/4 by 5 3/4 in.; 14.5 by 14.5 cm. Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 16. AMBROSIUS BENSON LOMBARDY (?) LATE 15TH CENTURY – BEFORE 1550 BRUGES
VIRGIN AND CHILD
oil on panel: 5 3/4 by 5 3/4 in.; 14.5 by 14.5 cm.
Estimate: $300,000-500,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $250,000 ($310,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 17. GRINLING GIBBONS ROTTERDAM 1648 - 1721 LONDON A HIGH RELIEF CELEBRATING PSALM 150 WITH KING DAVID PLAYING A HARP AND SAINT CECILIA PLAYING AN ORGAN, CIRCA 1668-1670 Monogrammed with two interlaced Gs on the organ Boxwood 14 1/2 by 9 1/2 in.; 37 by 24 cm Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 17. GRINLING GIBBONS ROTTERDAM 1648 – 1721 LONDON
A HIGH RELIEF CELEBRATING PSALM 150 WITH KING DAVID PLAYING A HARP AND
SAINT CECILIA PLAYING AN ORGAN, CIRCA 1668-1670
Monogrammed with two interlaced Gs on the organ
Boxwood: 14 1/2 by 9 1/2 in.; 37 by 24 cm
Estimate: $250,000-350,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $130,000 ($162,500 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 20. VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE COULOMMIERS-EN-BRIE, SEINE-ET-MARNE BAPT 1591 (?) - 1632 ROME THE CROWNING WITH THORNS Oil on canvas 58 5/8 by 41 7/8 in.; 146.4 by 106.5 cm Estimate: $1.5-2 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 20. VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE COULOMMIERS-EN-BRIE, SEINE-ET-MARNE BAPT 1591 (?) – 1632 ROME
THE CROWNING WITH THORNS
Oil on canvas: 58 5/8 by 41 7/8 in.; 146.4 by 106.5 cm
Estimate: $1.5-2 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $4.4 million ($5.178 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 21. JACOPO LIGOZZI VERONA 1547 - 1627 FLORENCE THE ABDUCTION OF THE SABINE WOMEN Signed and indistinctly dated IACOPO LIGOZZI / FA [CE]VA...96 (lower center, beneath the dog) Oil on canvas 52 1/8 by 73 3/8 in.; 132.3 by 186.4 cm Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 21. JACOPO LIGOZZI VERONA 1547 – 1627 FLORENCE
THE ABDUCTION OF THE SABINE WOMEN
Signed and indistinctly dated IACOPO LIGOZZI / FA [CE]VA…96 (lower center, beneath the
dog)
Oil on canvas: 52 1/8 by 73 3/8 in.; 132.3 by 186.4 cm
Estimate: $600,000-800,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $220,000 and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 26. HENDRICK MAERTENSZ. SORGH ROTTERDAM 1609 OR 1611 - 1670 A MUSICAL COMPANY IN AN INTERIOR signed and dated lower right: HM Sorgh/1661 oil on canvas 26 3/4 by 32 1/4 in.; 68 by 82 cm. Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 26. HENDRICK MAERTENSZ. SORGH ROTTERDAM 1609 OR 1611 – 1670
A MUSICAL COMPANY IN AN INTERIOR
signed and dated lower right: HM Sorgh/1661
oil on canvas: 26 3/4 by 32 1/4 in.; 68 by 82 cm.
Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $500,000 ($610,000 with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 30. MATTHIAS STOMER AMERSFOORT NEAR UTRECHT CIRCA 1600 - AFTER 1652 (?) SICILY OR NORTHERN ITALY CHRIST DISPUTING WITH THE DOCTORS Oil on canvas 53 1/2 by 71 1/4 in.; 136 by 181 cm Estimate: $1-1.5 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 30. MATTHIAS STOMER AMERSFOORT NEAR UTRECHT CIRCA 1600 – AFTER 1652 (?) SICILY OR NORTHERN ITALY
CHRIST DISPUTING WITH THE DOCTORS
Oil on canvas: 53 1/2 by 71 1/4 in.; 136 by 181 cm
Estimate: $1-1.5 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $2.2 million ($2.65 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 41. GIOVANNI BATTISTA CARACCIOLO, CALLED BATTISTELLO NAPLES 1578 - 1635 THE CALLING OF SAINT MATTHEW Oil on canvas 51 3/8 by 61 1/2 in.; 130.5 by 156.4 cm Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 41. GIOVANNI BATTISTA CARACCIOLO, CALLED BATTISTELLO NAPLES 1578 – 1635
THE CALLING OF SAINT MATTHEW
Oil on canvas: 51 3/8 by 61 1/2 in.; 130.5 by 156.4 cm
Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $440,000 and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 50. BERNARDO BELLOTTO VENICE 1722 - 1780 WARSAW VENICE, A VIEW OF THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING EAST FROM THE CAMPO DI SAN VIO, TO THE LEFT THE PALAZZO CORRER Oil on canvas 24 by 38 3/8 in.; 61 by 97.5 cm. Estimate: $1.5-2 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 50. BERNARDO BELLOTTO VENICE 1722 – 1780 WARSAW
VENICE, A VIEW OF THE GRAND CANAL LOOKING EAST FROM THE CAMPO DI SAN VIO,
TO THE LEFT THE PALAZZO CORRER
Oil on canvas: 24 by 38 3/8 in.; 61 by 97.5 cm.
Estimate: $1.5-2 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of $2.5 million ($3.01 million with fees).
Click on image to enlarge.

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