Category: Auctions

The Holy Grail of Modern British?

January 13 2011

Image of The Holy Grail of Modern British?

A Francis Bacon triptych of Lucien Freud will be offered by Sotheby’s in London on 10th February. Painted in 1964, it should eclipse the £5.4m realised by Freud’s reciprocal portrait of Bacon, sold in October 2008 at Christie’s London. The Freud of Bacon had an estimate of £4m-7m. The Bacon of Freud has an estimate of £7m-9m.

Not William Gladstone...

January 12 2011

Image of Not William Gladstone...

Picture: Bonhams

...as catalogued, but John Bright. Still worth buying though.

Bright wasn't Prime Minister, but he was one of the most important statesman of the Victorian age. He said the famous phrase during the Crimean War; "The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land. You may almost hear the beating of his wings." 

Update 19.1.11; it made £1,440.

How much will it make?

January 11 2011

Image of How much will it make?

Picture: Christie's

A previously unknown self-portrait by Andy Warhol will be auctioned by Christie's London on 16th February with an estimate of £3-5m. It is the eleventh version on a 6ft large canvas, and newly authenticated. Previously there were thought to be only ten.

There are more than forty on the smaller 22 inch scale. 

Update 20.1.11; full Christie's catalogue entry here.

74 Times the Estimate

December 8 2010

Image of 74 Times the Estimate

Picture: Bonham's

An interior of a church catalogued as 'Studio of Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597-1665)' has sold for £1,476,000 at Bonhams today. The estimate was £20,000 to £30,000.

It might appear at first as if a 'sleeper' has slipped through the net. But reading the text of the catalogue, it seems the auctioneers knew exactly what they were doing - it effectively says, 'we think this is really by Saenredam'. And by leaving open the element of discovery, the (rather dirty) 'studio' picture was the perfect cheese in the trap for the world's Old Master dealers.

The price beat the existing auction record for a Saenredam by some margin.  

Poussin fails to fly

December 7 2010

Image of Poussin fails to fly

Picture: Christie's

Christie’s star lot at the Old Master sales this week, one of Nicolas Poussin’s Sacrament series – Ordination - has failed to sell. The estimate was £15-20 million. I hear that at least one US museum was interested, but in the end could not commit. 

The picture was being offered from the collection of the Duke of Rutland, who has five Sacrament scenes in all. One of the seven, Penance, was destroyed by fire in 1816, and number six, Baptism, was sold by the 9th Duke in 1939. It is now in The National Gallery, Washington.  

Ordination is a an exquisite work, but I feared before the sale that the estimate was a touch high. Realistically, any serious collector or museum who has that kind of money to spend is going to want to try and collect the series, or at least as much of it as they can. That means earmarking perhaps £100 million to get all five from the Rutland collection, with no guarantee that you ever could get all five, and knowing for certain that the one in Washington will always elude you. Meanwhile, a second (more dramatic) series sits enticingly in National Gallery of Scotland, on loan from the Duke of Sutherland, who has been known to sell the odd picture recently...

The Rutland trustees might perhaps have tried to put together a long term deal for all five, with say the Getty or Washington. I'd have taken anything over £50 million, and run... 

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