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British & European Art: Christie’s, London

July 21, 2021
young girl seated with a flower in her hand


On July 15th, Christie’s presented a big sale of British and European art, which faired a little better than their competition’s. While things opening up in the UK helped bring in more material, the problem still seems to be sourcing excellent quality works to sell.

two neoclassical figures in a garden

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

The session began at 1 pm UK time (8 am NY time), and the top sellers all happened within the first 22 lots (of a 181 lot sale). In first was lot 22, Sir John Everett Millais’ Nina, daughter of Frederick Lehmann, Esq. which carried a £200-300K estimate and sold for £400K/$554K (£500K/$693K w/p). This same painting was offered at Sotheby’s, New York, in 2017 at $400-600K and failed to sell .. the  seller bought it back in 1984 for £230K/$317K . The second and third place finishers, which came from the Hartmuth Jung collection, were tied. Lot 7, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s pastel Study of Alexa Wilding, her head turned three-quarters to the right (bought in 2004 for £128/$235K) and lot 9, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s Patience on a monument smiling at Grief (last on the public market in 2001 and sold for £158K/$224K), were each expected to sell in the £300-500K range and fell a little short at £280K/$388K (£350K/$485K w/p). Even though they did not hit the low end of their range, the seller was still in the black. It was nice to see some strength in the Victorian market.

head of a woman


Rounding out the top five were Gustave Moreau’s watercolor and gouache Le lion amoureux (The Lion in Love) at £260K/$360K (£325K/$450K w/p – est. £300-500K). The seller bought the work back in 1991 for $550K, so they took a big loss. And then there was Fernand Khnopff’s Les Caresses, a pencil and crayon work from the Jung collection, that made £180K/$250K (£225K/$312K w/p – est. £80-120K). It appears that Jung acquired the work in 2005 from a collector who purchased it back in 2000 for £92K/$130K.

Other strong performers included Carlos Schwabe’s La Porte d’or at £180K/$250K (225K/$312K w/p – est. £100-150K), which was also from the Jung collection and was purchased back in 2005 for £42K/$73K; Schwabe’s L’Idéal made £75K/$104K (94K/$130K w/p – on a £20-30K estimate); Edmund Dulac’s small watercolor Venise: The Carnival, St Mark’s, Venice made £20K/$28K (£25K/$35K w/p – est. £7-10K); and Albert Goodwin’s Fireflies, Trinidad (also a small watercolor) hammered at £5.5K/$7.6K (£6.9K/$9.5K w/p – est. £1-1.5K).

Among the more expensive works that failed to sell were Robertson’s The Carpet Bazaar, Cairo (£250-350K), Ernst’s Two Warriors in the Alhambra Palace (£250-350K), Bossoli’s Veduta de Golfo di Napoli (£60-80K), Atkinson Grimshaw’s Late Autumn on the Esk (£100-150K), Sandy’s Portrait of Julia Smith Caldwell (£40-60K), and de Dreux’s A Lady Riding in a Landscape, with Her Dogs (£60-80K).

By the sale’s end, of the 181 works offered, 133 sold (73.5%), which is reasonable for this type of sale. The presale estimate range was £5.4-8.3M, and the hammer total was £4.2M (£5.26M/$7.3M w/p), so they fell short of expectations. Of the 133 sold works, 56 were below, 46 within, and 31 above their estimate range, leaving them with an accuracy rate of 25.4%.