On September 26th, Bonhams offered their selection of 19th Century European, Victorian & British Impressionist Art. As you might surmise from the sale’s title, there was a wide variety of works … both in subject matter and quality (w/p = with premium). The sale got off to a rocky start with only one of the first six lots selling. Then a rather lackluster Corot appeared (I figured this one would not sell) and it actually found a buyer at £45K (£56K/$69K w/p – est. £25-30K). This was followed by Gustave Courbet’s La Plage de Saint-Aubin which carried an estimate of £120-180K and sold for a fairly strong £290K (£363K/$446K w/p).
The sale continued to be quite choppy, with some works selling and others finding no takers. By the time they got to lot 60, about half of the offerings went unsold. Then they got to the star of the sale – Osman Hamdi Bey’s Young Girl Reading – a 16 x 20-inch canvas; according to the catalog, the painting was last on the market in 1976 and carried a £600-800K estimate. The action was fast and furious, and by the end of the bidding, the new owner paid a record £5.7M (£6.32M/$7.8M w/p) – that was the top lot of the sale. The Bey was followed by three Ludwig Deutsch paintings – The Qanun Player which brought £960K (£1.17M/$1.44M – w/p – est. £300-500K), making it the number two lot of the sale; The Connoissuer at £270K (£338K/$414K – w/p – est. £150-250K); and The Goza Smoker £940K (£1.14M/$1.4M – w/p – est. £120-180K) – making it the number three lot of the sale.
There were a few other strong results which included works by Alphonse Dinet £130K (£163K/$200K – w/p – est. £130-150K); Charles W. Wyllie’s The Backwater at £50K (£63K/$77K – w/p – est. £20-30K); and a small (20 x 14 inch) Henry Scott Tuke at £80K (£100K/$123K – w/p – est. £60-80K).
By the end of the auction, of the 103 lots offered, 68 sold (a sell-through rate of 66%) which totaled £9.5M/$11.7M. The low end of their estimate range was £3.02M, so they blew that away. Of course, we need to keep in mind that the Bey alone brought in more than the entire presale estimate and accounted for 60.2% of the sale’s total – like I always say: what a difference one painting can make! When we add in the number two and three lots, their total amounted to £7.6M or 80% of the sale’s total.
Of the 103 sold offered, 1 was withdrawn, 11 sold below, 36 sold within, and 21 sold above their estimate ranges. This left them with an accuracy rate of 35%.
When good quality 19th-century works appear, they still command a great deal of attention and strong results.