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Sotheby’s Sale Of Mid-Level European Paintings

November 5, 2021
man and woman in a buggy - european paintings

Jean Beraud

Towards the end of October, Sotheby’s offered their selection of lower to mid-level 19th and 20th century European paintings. As with the competition, the pickings were rather slim.

a fish market at night - european paintings


The top seller here was a fresh-to-the-market Jean Beraud titled Le Buggy. The painting was purchased from a gallery in 1966 and has since remained in the same family’s collection. I felt the estimate ($80-120K) was a little robust for this particular subject, and I guess the market agreed as it hammered at $70K ($88.2K w/p). Then there was a tie for second place; Petrus van Schendel’s Fish Market at the Sint-Jacobskerk (est. $30-50K) and Montage Dawson’s Wings of Evening (est. 50-70K), each made $55K ($69.3K w/p). Rounding out the top five were Alexandre Cabanel’s Portrait des deux soeurs at $40K ($50.4K w/p – est. $50-70K) and Philip Alexius de László’s Mrs. William Burden, A. M. (née Margaret Livingston Partridge), which made $38K ($47.88K w/p – est. $40-60K).

a ship at sail - european paintings

Montage Dawson

There were several paintings that performed well; these included Cesar Pattein’s The Young Artists at $26K ($32.8K w/p – est. $10-15K), Antonio Casanova y Estorach’s Amusing Gossip that made $10K ($12.6K w/p – est. $3-5K), and Antoine-Louis Barye’s Eagle which brought $5K ($6.3K w/p – est. $1-1.5K). On the other side, many did not perform well (and I am not just talking about the unsold works). Two of several works that sold well below their estimate were Diaz de la Pena’s The Fortune Teller, which made just $600 ($756 – est. $3-5K); and Ottenfeld’s Desert Rider and his Faithful Companion, that brought $1.2K ($1.5K w/p – est. $6-8K). Then we had plenty that BI’ed (short for ‘bought in’, or unsold), including paintings by Grolleron (est. $25-35K), Meissonier ($25-35K), Carlsen ($30-40K), and Beda ($30-50K).

When the sale ended, of the 126 lots offered, 82 sold (65.08%), and the total take was $951K ($1.2M w/p). Their presale estimate range was $1.58 – $2.48M, so they fell well short, even when the buyer’s premium is added in. Of the 82 sold lots, 44 were below, 25 within, and 13 above their estimate ranges, leaving them with an accuracy rate of 19.8%.

Again, this was not their main 19th-century sale; those normally happen in January. However, it does show how difficult it is for the main room in New York to source quality material in the 19th-century European painting arena.