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Christie’s Old Masters – London

July 9, 2018

Ludovico Carracci

On July 5th Christie’s presented their group of Old Master works of art … and from the results, it appears they were not as successful as their main competitor. Taking the top slot here was Carracci’s Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni… that carried a £3.5-5M estimate and sold for £5.07M ($6.7M) – this painting last sold in 2005 for $1.81M.  In second was Gerard David’s The Holy Family that realized £4.85M ($6.4M) on a £1.5-2.5M estimate.  The seller acquired this painting in 2003 for $1M … another nice return.

Gerard David

Third place was nabbed by Rembrandt. Now you might be wondering, how could a Rembrandt not take to top position?  Well, this was not a painting, but a print.  In 1655, Rembrandt created his drypoint Christ Presented to The People which today, is among his most sought-after works in this medium.  The one offered is the only first state still in private hands (there are eight known examples, seven of which are in museums collections). While the piece did not carry a published estimate, they were expecting it to make in the £2.2-3.5M range and it sold for £2.2M ($2.9M – a record for any Old Master print).  Rounding out the top five were a Bernardo Bellotto Venetian scene at £2.17M ($2.86M – est. £2-3M) and a Ruysdael coastal landscape at £1.93M ($2.55M – est. £1-1.5M).

Rembrandt

Among the other bright spots in this patchy sale were a Constable £1.03M (est. £400-600K); Ruisdael at £513K (est. £100-150K); and a Dobson at £441K (est. £100-150K).  Unlike Sotheby’s, Christie’s likes to remove all of the unsold works from their website (guess this is their idea on how to make the art market more transparent).  However, a quick search provided a few of the BIG failures, which included Rubens’s portrait of his daughter Clara Serena that carried a £3-5M estimate (this seller bought the painting back in 2013 for $627K, on a $20-30K estimate, when it was deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and sold as a follower of Rubens), Zanobi Strozzi’s Last Judgement (est. £2-4M), and van Dyck’s portrait of the Cheeke sisters (est. £2-4M).

When this session ended, of the 61 works offered, 45 sold (74%), and the total take was £31.2M/$41.2M (with commissions).  The pre-sale estimate range was £28.9 – 47.8M, so they needed the buyer’s premium to make it. Here too, the press reported that their 2018 sale was down almost 29% from the prior year.  What they failed to mention is that last year’s sale included a massive 4 foot by 6 foot view of Venice by Francesco Guardi. The work was estimated to bring between £25-35M and made £26.2M ($33.8M). Another beautiful example of — what a difference one painting can make.

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