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Sotheby’s, London – European & British Art

December 16, 2020
street scene with buldings

Eduard Gaertner

On December 9th, Sotheby’s offered up a selection of European & British works of art … the results will speak for themselves. (w/p = with the buyer’s premium)

The top lot of the sale was a large oil painting by Eduard Gaertner titled The Royal Opera, Unter den Linden, Berlin, which hammered at £750K/$992K (£923K/$1.22M w/p – est. £800-1.2M).  In fact, the sale included 30 other works by the artist, though the rest were works on paper … all of those that sold made between £2,000 and £10,000, and each carried a £2-3K estimate.

men and horses standing in a tunnel


The second most expensive work was Sorolla’s massive (99 x 146 inch) painting Before the Bullfight at £650K/$860K (£802K/$1.06M – est. £650-850K) – guess someone has a giant wall to fill! In a distant third was Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s Skaters on Lake Ruovesi at £320K/$423K (£402K/$532K w/p – est. £300-500K); this one last appeared on the auction block in 2011 and made $158K, so the seller was happy about the result. Rounding out the top five, we had a tie; Anders Zorn’s Girl from Mora Skiing (est. £300-500K) and Franz von Stuck’s Medea (est. £100-150K) each made £300K/$397K (£378K/$500K w/p).

winter landscape with skaters on a frozen river

Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Some of the better performers included Cornelis Springer’s The Zuiderspui with the Drommedaris, Enkhuizen at £190K/$251K (est. £100-150K), Olga W. Florian’s Summer Flowers of the Field £150K/$198K (est. £50-70K), and Henriette Browne’s Man Sewing which crushed its £7-10K estimate when it hammered down at £70K/$93K.  On the other side, there were a lot of works that just did not generate any interest.  Among the more expensive were three by Carl Larsson (£240-340K and two at £150-200K), Munnings (£260-360K), Leighton (£260-360K), and a Gérôme (£200-300K).

By the end of the sale, of the 176 lots finally offered (6 seemed to have vanished), 97 sold (55.6% sell-through rate), and the total take was £4.18M/$5.5M (£5.22M/$6.9M w/p).  The low end of their presale estimate range was £6.46M, so they were way short.  Of the 97 sold lots, 16 were below, 55 within, and 26 below their expected ranges.  When we consider the 79 unsold works, this gave them an accuracy rate of 31.25% — which is better than most.

So from the numbers, we can see that their accuracy rate improved, but the overall sale did not perform as hoped.  Sadly for the sellers, with all the works coming to the market (too many sales for even us to keep track of) many lots are just not finding buyers.