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Sotheby’s London – The Orientalists

April 30, 2019
Jean-Leon Gérôme's Rider and His Steed in the Desert

Jean-Leon Gérôme’s Rider and His Steed in the Desert

On April 30th, Sotheby’s presented their selection of 19th century Orientalist paintings and, at times, the desert heat took its toll.

Jean-Leon Gérôme "Evening Prayer, Cairo"

Jean-Leon Gérôme “Evening Prayer, Cairo”

Taking the top two slots were paintings by Jean-Leon Gérôme: Rider and His Steed in the Desert hammered at £950K (£1.16/$1.5M with commission – w/c … est. £1-1.5M), while Evening Prayer, Cairo brought £600K (£735/$951K w/c … est. £600-800K). I am sure the latter made the seller happy since they bought the work in 2018 for $423K.  In third, we had a little surprise – Auguste Veillon’s Halt in the Desert brought an auction record for the artist £250K (£313/$404K w/c, on an £80-120K est.).  Rounding out the top five, we had a tie at £220K (£275/$356K w/c); Carl Haag’s The Holy Rock, Jerusalem (est. £50-70K) and Carl Saltzmann’s Leander’s Tower and the Old City Beyond, Constantinople (£100-150K).  It is interesting to note that the numbers 3, 4 and 5 all beat their presale estimates, while the top two struggled to make it.

Auguste Veillon’s Halt in the Desert

Auguste Veillon’s Halt in the Desert

There were other respectable results, including Enrico Tarenghi’s The Entertainers at £95K (£119K/$154K – est. £15-20K) and Carl Haag’s The Ruins of the Temple of the Sun, Palmyra at £110K (£138/$178K w/c – est. £50-70K).  Along with the good, there were a number that failed to generate any interest; these included works by Belly (£250-350K), Ernst (£250-350K), Ambros (£200-300K), Corrodi (£80-120K), and de Mango (£70-100K).

By the end of the session, of the 77 works offered, 52 sold (67.5%), and the total generated was £4.33M (£5.34M/$6.96M w/c) … the low end of their range was £5M, so without the buyer’s premium, they came up short.  Of the 52 sold lots, 3 were below, 34 within, and 15 above their presale estimate ranges; this gave them an accuracy rate of 44% — impressive.  Looking a little closer, we discover that while 34 works sold within their range, 24 were at the low end; this leads me to believe that some, if not all, sold at their reserve.

Unlike the competition’s sale, where one work stole the show (or made the sale), here they had the help of several works.  In the Christie’s sale, the Bauernfeind (their top lot) accounted for 75% of the sale’s total; here, the Gérôme accounted for 22% of the total.  In addition, the top 5 works garnered £2.24M (52%), compared to Christie’s top five at £4.46M, or 93%.

While neither sale was a blockbuster, Sotheby’s seemed to be a bit healthier.