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The Fresher, The Better – 19th-century Sale At Sotheby’s London

July 9, 2019
Akseli Gallen-Kallela's View over a Lake at Sunset

Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s View over a Lake at Sunset

On July 9th, Sotheby’s presented their summer selection of 19th-century European paintings.  Even though the sale did ok, I still think that presenting this period of art during the summer month’s is not the best idea.  We all know that the auction rooms need to feed the machine, but I have to believe that there would have been even more competition for this material in the Fall or Spring. (Unless otherwise noted, all prices include the buyer’s premium)

Gustave Courbet's Paysage de neige avec arbres et rochers

Gustave Courbet’s Paysage de neige avec arbres et rochers

Taking the top spot was View over a Lake at Sunset by the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela which carried a £100-150K estimate and sold for an auction record of £711K ($886K) – the previous record was $550K, set back in 2017.  Coming in second was Paysage de neige avec arbres et rochers by Gustave Courbet.  This painting had been in the same collection for more than 120 years and brought £591K ($737K) on a £200-300K estimate.  The third spot was nabbed by Josef Chelmonski’s Midnight Ride that was estimated at £200-300K and sold for £338K ($421K) – another work that has not been seen in a long time.  Rounding out the top five were Sorrolla’s Puerto de Guetaria, Pais Vasco at £325K ($405K – estimate £250-350K), and Willem B. Tholen’s The Billiards Player at £288K ($358K – estimate £60-80K).  I have always said that freshness is the key to success, and according to the catalog, all of the top lots had been off the market for at least 30 years.

Josef Chelmonski’s Midnight Ride

Josef Chelmonski’s Midnight Ride

There were other strong results – Chierici’s Surprised! made £213K ($265K – est. £150-200K), Masdag’s Boats at Sea brought £94K ($117K – est. £45-60K), Sorolla’s El Palleter also achieved 94K ($117K – est. £40-60K), and Boldini’s The Artist’s Model fetched £131K ($153K – est. £60-80K).  On the flip side, there were some big works that failed to find buyers, among them, were Segantini’s Idyll (£100-150K) and the Shepherd in Love (£80-120K), Nonell’s Consuelo (£200-300K), Sorolla’s La Caleta, Malaga (est. £350-450K), and Majorelle’s Sous les palmiers dattiers (est. £250-350K).

By the end of the sale, of the 68 works offered, 42 found buyers (61.7%) and their total take was £4.06M ($5.05M) – low end of their presale estimate was £3.59M; so they made it with the buyer’s premium added in.  Of the 42 sold works, 5 were below, 25 within, and 12 above their estimate range.  When we factor in the unsold lots, this left them with an accuracy rate of 36.8% — better than normal.