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Sotheby’s Schmit Collection, Part II

March 25, 2022
A peasant woman hauls a bundle of kindling on her back, trudging through the snow accompanied by her young daughter and a goat that she’s pulling on a rope

La Pauvresse de village by Gustave Courbet

This Thursday, Sotheby’s Paris saw the second half of Robert and Nadine Schmit’s collection come across the block. (w/p = with buyer’s premium) The first half was already featured at a sale back in early December. Robert Schmit was a prominent art collector who operated his own gallery on the rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Starting in the 1960s, he and his wife Nadine became known as some of the top collectors of nineteenth-century French paintings, especially works by Eugène Boudin and Gustave Courbet. So it wasn’t very surprising when Courbet’s La Pauvresse de village took the top spot at the sale. A peasant woman hauls a bundle of kindling on her back, trudging through the snow accompanied by her young daughter and a goat that she’s pulling on a rope. Though a later work from 1866, the painting is more typical of Courbet’s earlier social realist works like The Stone Breakers or The Wheat Sifters. It exceeded its original million-euro estimate, selling for €1.4M/$1.54M (or €1.73M/$1.9M w/p).

A watercolor and gouache landscape of Balbins by Johan Barthold Jongkind

Col de Balbins, Ornacieux by Johan Barthold Jongkind

The other top lots featured were Tournant du Loing by Alfred Sisley, a landscape showing a tributary of the Seine which sold for €400K/$440K (or €504K/$554K w/p). There was also a landscape of Brest harbor by Eugène Boudin with disembarking sailors in the foreground, which went for €290K/$319K (or €365.4K/$401.9K w/p). There were also one or two surprises along the way. A portrait by Eugène Delacroix hit €90K/$99K (or €113.4K/$124.7K w/p), tripling its original estimate after someone put in a €70K advance bid. A little later on, a double-sided watercolor and gouache work by Johan Barthold Jongkind shattered its original estimate by selling for €9K, which was six times what Sotheby’s specialists said it would go for. One side shows a verdant landscape, indicated by the artist to be in Balbins, halfway between Lyon and Grenoble. The other side seems to be studies of farmers with carts full of hay, which Jongkind wrote were the residents of the town of Côte-Saint-André, right next to Balbins.

Fifty-four of the seventy-eight lots offered, over two-thirds, hit or beat their estimates. Sotheby’s specialists correctly estimated the total sale to bring in anywhere between €2.7M and €4M. Despite thirteen lots being bought in, the sale made €3.93M/$4.3M (€4.92M/$5.4M w/p), just shy of exceeding the total maximum estimate.

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