Bronzino gets away at $9.12m

January 29 2015

Image of Bronzino gets away at $9.12m

Picture: Christie's

Christie's managed to spare some blushes yesterday by selling the above Bronzino for $9.12m (inc. premium) against an $8m-$12m estimate. The picture had failed to sell a couple of years ago at $12m-$18m. 

I noted earlier the curious slant in the catalogue note for the picture, which tried to claim the picture as an inspiration for many contemporary artists, including Warhol. On ArtNet, eminent Old Master dealer Robert Simon (he who worked on and sold the newly found Leonardo 'Salvator Mundi') takes apart Christie's rather desperate contemporary packaging:

Perhaps most blatant and irrelevant (and offensive) are the analogies carted out to supplement the impressive Portrait of a Young Man with a Book by Agnolo Bronzino. As a preface to the erudite entry on the painting by scholar Carlo Falciani, we are treated to a bizarre mash-up of the history of portraiture starring Cindy Sherman, Joseph Cornell, Lucian Freud, and Andy Warhol. Somehow they are all being presented as coequals of Bronzino, if not tacitly superior to him due to their contemporaneity. Warhol's Mao (illustrated) is presented as a counterpart to the Bronzino portrait, echoing “Bronzino's fascination with power and fashion"— neither quality, it might be noted, being especially evident in the painting being auctioned. The catalogue dutifully informs us that “Although there is no evidence of any knowledge of his work, there is a parallel between the portraiture of Bronzino and that of Andy Warhol, the most celebrated purveyor of ‘iconic' images of the 20th century."

Yes, there are of course parallels, just as we might all look identical to a Martian first visiting Earth. But attempting to validate established Old Master painters through specious associations with the darlings of the contemporary market lowers the credibility of the auction house and weakens the authority they have successfully promoted for themselves over the past few decades. And for many who love the art of the period, it lessens the significance of the works being offered, reducing these often complex paintings to simple cognates of their more celebrated contemporary descendants.

The Bronzino total helped push up the total for Christie's seperate 'Renaissance' sale to $15.8m. 29 lots sold, and 25 bought in. 

So Christie's combined 'day 1' Old Master total was a more respectable $25.3m. 

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.