Even in death, Taubman is still a drag on Sotheby’s with a sluggish Old Masters sale
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its $21-30 million estimate (pre-sale estimates do not include the buyer’s premiums); of the 67 lots offered, none were withdrawn and 17 failed to sell.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 Cortona, Christ 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.
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.”