The Getty buys $30 million Gentileschi, but nearly half the lots fail at Sotheby’s Old Masters sale
Tonight’s sale of Old Master Paintings at Sotheby’s brought in more money with one lot – Orazio Gentileschi’s Danae, which sold to the Getty Museum for more than $30 million – than the entire sale of Old Masters the night earlier from the estate of Alfred Taubman, the ex-con former chairman of the company. It was a good new bad news sort of night – the sale pulled in $44,980,000 ($53,743,500 with all of the buyer’s fees) – but 30 of the 61 lots offered cratered, including the cover lot, Canaletto’s Interior view of the Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey.
The sale opened with a banal pair of Sano di Pietro depictions of Saints Jerome and Anthony of Padua that hammered at $180,000 ($225,000 with fees), just below its $200,000 low estimate, followed by the Luca di Tomme (below), which made $90,000 ($112,500 with fees), just short of the $100,000 low estimate, and the Ventura di Moro (below), which made its $120,000 low estimate ($150,000 with fees). All three lots were sold to the same telephone bidder.
Next up, a weird Bedoli of a startled looking young woman followed by a small, listless Lucas Cranach – both tanked – then a School of Fontainebleau full length Pandora lit up the room, zipping past its $500,000 high estimate to make $620,000 ($754,000 with fees); it was purchased by the Louvre according to the Art Tribune. The delightfully bizarre Temptation of Saint Anthony by a Bosch follower, and once owned by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII, drew multiple bidders whipping past its $400,000 to hammer for $700,000 ($850,000 with fees).
Three Madonna and Child paintings by Botticelli and studio attracted considerable attention and active bidding – lots 10, 12 and 16 – the first two each hammered for $1.1 million ($1,330,000 with fees), and the third made $650,000 ($790,000 with fees), and was sold the the same telephone bidder who bought the sale’s first three lots. The next five works, beginning with the Lorenzetti (below) and including an insipid pair of putti by Vasari, all bombed.
The Savery rocky landscape, lot 23 (below), alleviated the carnage, finding a buyer at $340,000 ($418,000 with fees). Lot 27, the Jordaens (below), which the sale catalogue said was “totally unknown and completely unpublished,” and which would look so much nicer following a good bath, opened at $3.3 million and crept up to its $4 million low estimate ($4.73 million with fees), which seemed to be the only legitimate bid.
After a couple of more buy-ins a large, saccharine and ostentatious Paul de Vos & Paul Wildens Garden of Eden surpassed its $500,000 high estimate to hammer for $540,000 ($658,000 with fees). This was followed a less than compelling Rubens of Saint Norbert overcoming Tanchelm that fetched $1.5 million ($1.81 million with fees), above the $1.2 million high estimate, and then a leaden van Dyck, lot 32, The Tribute Money, that failed at $1.9 million, just below the $2 million low estimate. Surprisingly, the Giaquinto (below), which the catalogue said was “only recently discovered,” tanked at $170,000, below the $200,000 low estimate – by that point it was the 17th lot to fail.
The Gentileschi brought a bit of energy to the room. Since it carried a third party guarantee, its sale was a foregone conclusion. However, since 19 previous lots had bombed by this point, nearly half the sale, a big hammer price brought much needed relief. Bidding opened at $20 million – after four bids over three long minutes it hammered for $27 million ($30,490,000 with fees). The painting was purchased by the Getty Museum, according to Bloomberg. Seven of the next eleven lots tanked including a pair of Platzers that plotzed (sorry) and the panoramic Vanvitelli of Rome (below), though the Saenredam (below) did hit its $2.5 million low estimate ($3.01 million with fees), purchased by London-based dealer Johnny van Haeften, according to the Telegraph. Lot 54, the Hubert Robert, sold below estimate for $140,000 ($175,000 with fees). Although not remarkable, it’s quite pleasing and hits my soft spot for Italy and great Italian gardens. The Joli view of London (below), which I found cold (and not as interesting as the same scene by Canaletto in the Lobkowicz collection in Prague), sold well below its $2 million low estimate, making $1.4 million ($1.69 million with fees), to the same buyer as the evening’s first three lots & Lot 16, the Botticelli Madonna and Child. The last major lot, by estimate, Canaletto’s Interior view of the Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey, opened at $3.8 million, and promptly bombed at $4.2 million, well below its $5 million low estimate. The final lot of the evening, a Turner watercolor, usually reliable material at auction, also tanked, the 30th work to do so in the 61-lot sale.