On December 12th, Sotheby’s (London) offered a group of 19th Century European Paintings and the results, in keeping with the works being offered, were less than stellar. I will start by saying that they did have a few interesting works, including two hard to find Caspar David Friedrich landscapes: Landscape with Mountain Lake, Morning which took the top spot at £2.53M/$3.17M (unless otherwise noted, all final prices included the buyer’s commission) on a £2-3M estimate; and Sunburst in the Riesengebirge that crushed its £500-700K estimate when it made £2.17M/$2.72M – this one will be ‘Coming to America’ since it was purchased by the Saint Louis Art Museum! In a distant third place was a not-very-impressive (to say the least) Hammershoi at £454K/$569K (est. £400-600K). Rounding out the top five were an early van Blaas at £250K/$313K (est. £120-180K) – someone needs to explain that one to me – and Wilhelm von Kobell’s 11 x 10-inch Riders Before the Tegernsee at £200K/$251K (est. £25-35K – talk about missing the mark).
There were a few other nice hits including Gustave Moreau’s Victimes du Sphinx at £88K/$110K (est. £12-18K); Wierusz-Kowalski’s A Sledge Under Attack by Wolves £88K/$110K (est. £20-30K) and Frans Vervloet’s View of Naples with the Lighthouse – £65K/$81K (est. £8-12K). All of those left their presale estimates in the dust. On the flip side, there were a number of works that failed to generate any interest… among them were works by Koch (£180-220K), Gervex (£100-150K), Gerome (£250-350K), Palizzi (£300-500K), and two by Sorolla (£180-250K & £400-600K).
By the end of the short session, of the 93 works offered, 50 sold (53.7% – not very good), and the total was £7.95M/$9.96M. The low end of the estimate range was 7.22M, so you might say – not bad, they beat it with only about 50% of the works selling. Not so fast! First, the total before the buyer’s premium was £6.54M (so they fell a bit short). Second, the two top lots brought in £4.7M (59% of the sale’s total). Third, the top five lots accounted for over 70% of the sale’s total (£5.6M). And finally, they came away with an accuracy rate of about 22%.
Repeat after me — less is more, less is more, less is more!