As we have seen with many of the 19th-century sales, the results come down to the condition, quality and estimate ranges. When they are all aligned things go well, when they are not then trouble arises.
I decided to watch this sale live (yes, I sat in the room from beginning to end). As you would expect, they started with lot 1, a painting by H.C. Delpy. The small Barbizon landscape was estimated to bring $10-15K and bidding started at $700 (no, I am not missing a zero). There wasn’t much action, but the auctioneer was able to get it up to $1,300 and it sold! After that happened, I figured we were in for a nauseating ride … thankfully, things got a little better. In fact, of the first 26 lots, only 2 failed to find buyers … then it got a little choppy (10 of the next 23 were bought-in), but I managed to make it through without getting seasick.
Taking the number one spot was Gustave Courbet’s Le chasseur d’eau at $500K ($615 w/c – est. $500-700K) – it last sold in 1998 for $256K. Coming in a close second at $430K ($531K w/c – est. $250-350K) was George Clausen’s Holiday Time, which saw some active bidding; and third place was nabbed by de Schryver’s Marchand de fleurs, la rue du Havre, Paris that brought $420K ($519K w/c – est. $300-500K) – this one last sold in 2016 for $225K. The fourth spot was filled by Grimshaw’s Spirit of Night at $290K ($363K w/c – est. $300-500K). This was not one of the fresher works … in 2002 it brought $538K, in 2015 is was offered with a $700-1M estimate and bought-in, and in 2016 they tried again at $600-800K and no takers. Rounding out the top five were Lhermitte’s La vendange à Mont-Saint-Père (est. $200-300K) and Gérôme’s Pygmalion et Galatée, esquisse à l’huile (est. $100-150K), both of which hammered down at $240K ($300K w/c).
While there weren’t many other true highlights, there were some sizable failures. Bouguereau’s L’Attente (est. $600-800K), Boldini’s L’amica del marchese (est. $300-500K), Gervex’s Une séance du jury de peinture – étude ($300-500K), and Sala’s The Anichkov Bridge on Nevsky Prospekt at Dusk, St. Petersburg (est. $150-250K) all failed to entice some bidding.
By the time the final lot came across the block (and failed to sell), 64 of the 87 lots found buyers (73.6% sell-through rate – pretty respectable), and they generated $5.05M ($6.29M w/c). Sadly, even with the buyer’s premium, they fell just short of their expected low end – $6.33M. Of the 87 works offered, 19 were below, 30 within, and 15 above their estimates; this left them with an accuracy rate of 34.5% (which is ok).
Stay tuned, May is here and you know what that means – more sales!