On Wednesday, October 12th, Bonhams’ London location at New Bond Street held its Modern and Impressionist sale. The sixty-six available lots did about as well as the house specialists hoped for, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. The Bonhams’ experts were nearly spot on in terms of the top lots. Coming in first, exceeding its £1.2M high estimate, was Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita’s 1929 oil-on-canvas Nu assis. The painting has been in the same family since its purchase from the Galerie Mantelet in 1929. As far as we know, it has only been exhibited once. The subject is likely Jacqueline Barsotti Goddard, a French model mainly known for her work and relationship with the American artist Man Ray. Nu assis ended up bringing in £1.3M / $1.44M (or £1.6M / $1.77 w/p).
Following not far behind the Foujita was a work by Maurice de Vlaminck. Created around 1908, Vlaminck’s arboreal painting La forêt is a decently-sized canvas, measuring approximately 31.8 x 39.4 inches, and features a grove of trees with a sort of dynamism that to me was reminiscent of those found in Van Gogh paintings. Like the Foujita painting, the same family has owned it since the 1920s, and it has not been exhibited since then. However, that will change sooner rather than later since it will appear at a Vlaminck exhibition at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany starting in September 2024. Bonhams’ house specialists gave the forest scene a reasonable estimate of £700K to £1M, with the hammer coming down at £900K / $996.4K (or £1.12M / $1.24 w/p). And finally, rounding out the top lots was one of Edgar Degas’s iconic ballerina works. The one featured on Wednesday, entitled Danseuse, was a relatively modest drawing done with pastel, wash, and charcoal on paper created around 1908. Danseuse was actually a small surprise since it was only expected to reach £180K, but ended up bringing in £250K.
Among the sale’s surprises was the nude painting Desnudo acostado by the Spanish artist Celso Lagar. It was one of the sale’s earlier lots, only expected to sell for £8K at most. Bid after bid came in; it went on for nearly 7-mintues before the hammer came down at £37K / $40.9K (or £46.92 / $51.9K w/p), or more than four times what specialists were expecting. The sale also finished very strongly, with two of the last three lots greatly exceeding their estimates. A round of applause broke out at the third-to-last lot when André Derain’s Le coq, made from watercolor, brush, and ink on paper, sold for more than six times its estimate at £9.5K / $10.5K (or £12.1K / $13.4 w/p).
Bonhams did incredibly well Wednesday, with experts originally predicting everything would bring in at least £3.19M. All sixty-six lots brought in a total of £3.98M (or $4.4M), with twenty-five lots (or 38%) falling within estimate. Only eleven lots (17%) went unsold that day.