A Vincent van Gogh Painting Rediscovered After More Than a Century Just Sold for $15.4 Million
On Thursday in Paris, Sotheby’s held an evening sale for impressionists and modern art in front of a cross-category marquee auction, which raised a total of 36.5 million euros with a premium (43 million US dollars). Under the direction of auctioneer Aurélie Vandevoorde, Sotheby’s Paris director for impressionism and modern art, the auction achieved a sales rate of 88 percent with 31 lots sold.
Forty-two percent of the lots sold above the high estimate, 39 percent sold within their estimates, and only 6 percent landed below expectations. Four lots were unsold and two were withdrawn before sales began.
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The result exceeded the previous year’s sale in Paris, which was postponed to June due to the pandemic and brought in a significantly lower total amount of EUR 10 million (USD 11.8 million). This sale also brought in more than the Paris-based evening auction “Modernités” in October, which brought in 28 million euros (33 million US dollars).
The main lot for today’s auction was a landscape by Vincent van Gogh, who rediscovered Montmartre (1887) in a French collection and sold it together with the French auction house Mirabaud Mercier. Estimated at EUR 5 to 8 million (USD 5.9 million to 9.4 million), it was initially sold as the sixth lot at the beginning of the sale and reached a high hammer price of EUR 14 million (USD 16.5 million) ). Then, in a dramatic gesture, Vandevoorde announced that Sotheby’s would put the painting back on the block at the end of the sale, although she never stated why.
In the second round, offers were received from London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. Represented by Samuel Valette, vice-chairman of Sotheby’s in London, and Nicholas Chow, chairman of Sotheby’s in Asia in Hong Kong, the bidders closed and after about 10 minutes Chow’s client dropped out, leaving the winning offer to Valette’s clients with a hammer of € 11.25 million (EUR 13 million with buyer’s premium or USD 15.4 million).
The story goes on
Despite the hiccups during the sale that forced Sotheby’s to offer the work again and keep the final bid lower than when the sale began, it was still a coup for the house. “The last few weeks have been a great adventure for the art market in France, where no Van Gogh of this caliber has been seen for a long time,” said Claudia Mercier and Fabien Mirabaud in a joint statement after the sale.
Another exciting time of bidding came when Francis Picabia’s La corrida (Le Matador dans l’arène), circa 1940–41, hit the block. It had been in a European private collection for five decades and was last shown in the Picasso / Picabia exhibition 2018–19, which was on view at the Musee Granet in France and the MAPFRE Foundation in Barcelona. Two telephone bidders – one with Olivier Barker in London, the other with Etienne Hellman, Sotheby’s Parisian Senior Director for Impressionism and Modern Art – went head-to-toe in a lengthy, minute-long bid. The auctioneer asked Hellman and said, “I really need a definitive answer.” Finally, she left the hammer at € 2.6 million above the high estimate of € 2.5 million ($ 2.9 million) and gave it to Barker’s bidder for a final price of € 3.5 million (3, $ 7 million) with buyer’s premium.
On sale elsewhere, Roberto Matta’s abstract painting Prince of Blood (triptych), hammered approx. 1943 at € 1.1. Million (1.3 million EUR with premium or 1.6 million USD) above the high estimate of 1 million EUR (1.2 million USD). The American seller bought it from Christie’s for $ 745,900 in 2009 and has seen a 114.5 percent increase in value in just over a decade. Kees van Dongen’s La Sirène (ca.1913), which depicts a standing naked woman, drew offers from Hong Kong and New York. A premium of EUR 1.9 million (USD 2.2 million) was estimated for a buyer in Asia, compared to an estimate of EUR 1 million (USD 1.2 million).
Camille Pissaro’s 1887 gouache Pea Harvest, an idyllic scene with six pea pickers, exceeded expectations. It had attracted attention after a 2018 Paris appeals court ruled that collectors Bruce and Robbi Toll must return gouache to the heirs of Simon Bauer, the original Franco-Jewish owner of the work from which the painting was confiscated during World War II. Bruce, a real estate developer, bought the piece from Christie’s for $ 880,000 in 1995 and it was confiscated by the French government when he loaned it to the Musée Marmottan in Paris for exhibition in 2017. The Bauer family estate sold it at an estimated price of EUR 1.2 million – EUR 1.8 million (USD 1.4 million – USD 2.1 million). After the proof of origin had been clarified and van Gogh’s brother Theo commissioned the latest discovery for 300 francs, the demand for the work was high. The price was 2.8 million euros (3.4 million euros with buyer’s premium or 4 million US dollars) – three times its low estimate.
Another Picabia, a picture of Adam and Eve, superimposed on a smiling face from around 1931 sold for EUR 2 million (USD 2.3 million), compared to a low estimate of EUR 1.5 million (USD 1.8 million) . USD). It was the first time it was auctioned and it came from a private European collection where it had lived for two decades. An Edgar Degas pastel with a ballerina sold for EUR 2.6 million ($ 3.2 million), at a low estimate of EUR 2 million ($ 2.3 million). it came from the estate of the Lanvin fashion house heiress Marie-Blanche de Polignac, where it had been since 1954. Auguste Rodin’s bronze sculpture of a seated couple embracing, Le Baiser, cast in 1904, hammered at 780,000 euros, above the high estimate of 600,000 euros ($ 400,000). The final price was € 956,3000.
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