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  • New year, new Botticelli - Sotheby's put together a $91M OMP auction in NY

    Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli

    The Man of Sorrows

    Inscribed along the neckline of Christ's robe
    Tempera and oil on panel,
    Panel: 27 1/8 by 20 1/4 in.; 69 by 51.4 cm.

    Photo credit: Courtesy of Sotheby's

    As it has by now become a consolidated tradition, the international auction business properly started the 2022 season with Sotheby’s high-profile series of old masters sales in NY at the end of January. The marquee sale on January 27th – where all the best lots were concentrated – totaled $76 million on the hammer (or $91 million with buyer’s fees), essentially meeting the expectations, with the final result falling within the pre-sale estimate range (set between $73.1 million–$88.6 million).

    Looking at the catalogue it was interesting to see how the auction house deliberately grouped superstar names – Botticelli, who has become a regular recurrence these last few years, and Goya – with high profile works by lesser known contemporaries. An approach that they had adopted last year as well and like 12 months ago in the end it proved to be an overall well-balanced strategy.

    Out of 55 lots, 41 lots sold, with two paintings, including a landscape with ruins by 17th-century Dutch painter Jacob van Ruisdael, withdrawn before the sale’s start. Also on this occasion, financial guarantees by external third parties were astutely finalised and placed on all trophy lots pre-sale meaning that, should have they failed to find competitive bids during the sale, a buyer had already been secured. These 11 works brought in a total of $63 million (with buyer’s fees), accounting for around 70 percent of the sale’s $91 million total.

    The top lot of the sale was a portrait of a thorn-crowned Christ by Sandro Botticelli. Dating from ca. 1500, it sold for $45.4 million (with fees) over the phone after a battle between two bidders. It had hammered at $39.3 million, just below its expectation of $40 million. Nearly 60 years ago, in 1963, Man of Sorrows had sold at auction for $26,000 when the seller, an anonymous American, purchased it.

    After a quick but significant jump back to the world of antiquities - with an Egyptian sculpture from the late 5th dynasty selling for $9,9 million, three times over its initial estimate – the sale continued with Peter van Mol’s Diogenes with his lantern looking for an honest man, representing five figures under dramatic light. Once in the collection of Baron Rothschild and consigned by Swiss banking heir Jacqui E. Safra, it went for $5.8 million, doubling its estimate and setting a new record for the artist.

    Sotheby’s managed to obtain two more prestigious consignments from M. Safra, also guaranteed pre-sale and both by 17th century female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, for whom there has recently been a vast demand and hence her works have started (miraculously?) appearing. The first, Portrait of a seated lady, three-quarter length, in an elaborate and gold-embroidered costume, possibly Caterina Savelli, Principessa di Albano (1620) sold for $2.7 million, the other one, a representation of the biblical scene with Susanna and the Elders (ca. 1638), sold for $2.1 million – respectively the second and third highest auction price for the artist.

    However, the lot which saw the most heated bidding competition was a pair of oil portraits by the early 17th century Dutch painter of Flemish origin Nicolaes Pickenoy. His Portrait of a man in black and Portrait of a lady in black (both 1635) featuring the sitters facing each other in the traditional Northern European black garment, went to a bidder over the phone for $880,000 ($1.1 million with fees), almost double its high estimate.

    Before to conclude a special mention goes to the Portrait of the Marquis de Caballero…of the Order of Santiago (1807), by Francisco Goya, which sold for $2.2 million, more than five times its estimate. The portrait was offered by the US-based charity CINTAS Foundation, established by Cuban entrepreneur and collector Oscar B. Cintas.

    After the buzz surrounding the Old Masters sales in NY, the art market is now turning its attention to London already, where all big auction houses are gearing up for both Impressionist/Modern Art and Post War & Contemporary auctions in early March. Looking forward to providing you with more post sale coverage and reports next month!

    Author: Enrico Cavaliere |Date: February 3, 2022