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Christie’s – Part I – 19th Century

October 15, 2020
man and dragon in a landscape

Spitzweg

Well, the 19th century action continues (and there is more coming).  Today, Christie’s presented a small, select, group of more expensive works, and the results were ok (for those items that were really nice).

young girl seated in a landscape

Bouguereau

We went to view the sale (yes, in person) and there were a few works that caught my eye.  The first, which also ended up being the top lot, was a small piece by the 19th century German artist Carl Spitzweg titled Der Hexenmeister (The Sorcerer) that was expected to sell in the $300-$500k range and hammered down at $1M ($1.23M w/p – doubling the high end of its estimate, but just shy of the record price).  This painting was restituted to the heirs of Leo Bendel in 2019. The second spot was taken by William A. Bouguereau, when his late (1899) work titled Rêverie found a buyer at $750K ($930K w/p – est. $800-$1.2M).  In third was Gustave Courbet’s Bords de la Loue avec rochers à gauche that made $640K ($798K w/p – est. $400-600K – it was being deaccessioned by the Brooklyn Museum). Rounding out the top five were Vittorio Corcos’s Alla Fontana, a very nice example, that made $550K ($688K w/p – est. $500-$700K), and Jean Beraud’s L’accident: Porte Saint-Denis at $450K ($563K w/p – est. $400-600K – this one last sold in 2002 for $395K).

french landscape

Courbet

Another painting that caught my eye during the preview was Alphonse Mucha’s Girl with a Plate with a Folk Motif. This work carried a $120-180K estimate and sold for $260K ($325K w/p – the painting last sold in 2006 for $90K).  There were a number of pricey works that did not find takers, among them were a work on paper by Gericault (est. $250-350K), Collier’s The Laboratory (est. $150-250K), and Boldini’s tiny L’Amica del Marchese (est. $200-300K).

The sale originally included 25 works, but by sale time a Tissot (est. $400-600K) and Waterhouse ($300-500K) were withdrawn, so they only offered 23 works.  Of those, 15 found buyers (65.2%), and the total achieved was $5.34M ($6.34M w/p) … their presale estimate range was $5.58-8.51M, so they needed the buyer’s premium to reach it.  Going a little deeper, we find that 7 sold below, 5 within, and 3 above their estimate ranges; this left them with an accuracy rate of just 21.7%.

I went back to the comparable sale in October 2019, that one totaled $17.5M, far more than the 2020 edition; however, while that sale included a similar number of works (24), only 9 sold and most were very expensive paintings: a Waterhouse for $4.7M, Rossetti for $3.5M, and a Bouguereau for $3.6M.  This time around, they could not get a group of multimillion-dollar paintings.  I guess some people are just not ready to take their chances at auction.

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