Category :Art Market

Written by: Ilaria Scarinci

Old Master: Excellent Investment, Not For Everyone’S Pockets

Tuesday 15 July 2008

The two Old Master sessions in London have proved the good trend of the sector, confirming the positive results achieved by Christie’s in the last days. Sales almost totalled 51.5 million pounds and 76.7% of the lots were sold, 93% if we consider their value. The evening sale achieved the second highest profits ever for the sector, with a 42% increase compared to last year’s sales. It is also the second total takings of an Old Master auction ever to be realized in Europe. During the auction, nineteen new records were established and twenty lots were sold for more than a million dollars.

Alex Bell, executive of Sotheby’s Old Master Department, claimed that these results confirm the strength of the market, but also the incredible quality of the works presented at auction. Bell also believes that no Old Master auction at Sotheby’s had ever presented works of such high quality. But the fact that the base of buyers has significantly increased is also very important. People taking part in auctions nowadays come from the most varied parts of the world. This way it is less risk of being affected by financial crises.

The top lot of the evening was “Portrait of Willem van Heythuysen” by Frans Hals, sold for 7,097,250 pounds (8,934,029 euros), starting from an estimate of 3-5 million pounds. It is the second highest price achieved at auction for a work by Frans Hals. The canvas, which has always been in private hands, has been recently rediscovered after about half a century.

Also a work by Turner, “Pope’s Villa at Twickenham”, achieved an excellent result, selling for 5,417,250 pounds in line with the estimate presented. This is the fourth best auction price achieved for England’s most appreciated master .

“The Edge of a Village with Figures Dancing” by Jan Brueghel the Elder sold for 3,513,250 pounds. This is one of the artist’s most prestigious works that has been in private hands. The work also set the artist’s record at auction.

A new record also for per Aert van der Neer. The oil on canvas “A Winter Landscape with Figures Battling Across a Frozen River in a Snowstorm” sold for 2,729,250 pounds, exceeding the estimate of 1-1.5 million pounds. The painting was bought by an English art gallery owner.

Definitely above all expectations, the canvas “David and Bathsheba” by Lucas Cranach the Elder which, estimated at 100-150 thousand pounds, achieved the astonishing amount of 2,113,250 pounds.

Another worthy result was achieved by “The Misers”, canvas painted by a disciple of Marinus van Reymerseale. It is a canvas of extremely high quality, for which contenders obviously had some doubts concerning its attribution, prospecting a possible realization of the painting by the master himself. There were at least eight people contending the painting, which achieved the price of 2,057,250 pounds, thirteen times more than the value of the highest estimate, included between 100 and 150 thousand pounds.

Furthermore, among Italian artists we must mention the good result achieved by Guido Reni, whose canvas “Il martirio di Santa Apollonia” totalled 1,833,250 pounds (estimate 1.5-2 million). However, the result achieved by Tintoretto is definitely more significant: the portrait presented at auction with an estimate of 200-300 thousand pounds sold for 1,609,250 pounds. More contained but equally worthy of being pointed out was the re-evaluation with respect to its estimates of the canvas “Firenze, una vista dal fiume Arno” by Antonio Joli selling for 881,250 pounds.

Therefore, London sales are launching positive signals that confirm the excellent results achieved a few days earlier by Christie’s. Naturally, as experts have been proving for some time, quotations of works are in this case supported by the very high quality of the canvases auctioned. Indeed, a masterpiece always remains such and can face the critical moments of the market, remaining more or less intact. Therefore, an excellent investment, but not for everybody.

(translated by Giorgina Arcuri)

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