In Miami, a $1.7m El Greco

January 6 2016

Image of In Miami, a $1.7m El Greco

Picture: Miami Auction Gallery/

Just before Christmas, the above portrait head by El Greco sold for $1.7m (hammer price) at Miama Auction Gallery, of which I must confess I hadn't heard before.

The starting bid was $250,000. By the look of it, someone left an absentee bid of $425,000, which is brave: perhaps they'd got tickets for the new Star Wars, and just couldn't miss it.

The price reinforces the fact that El Greco is a name on the rise at the moment, at least in the Old Master world. His colourful and eccentric technique, not to mention the brazen immediacy we see in portraits like the above, fits in well with modern taste. Really, he could have been painting in the 1950s. Even 'difficult' subjects like praying saints sell well if they're by El Greco, as happened with his Saint Dominic in 2013, which made £9.1m against an estimate of £3m-£5m. 

Nonetheless, the New York Times, in its latest 'The Old Master market is dead' piece, declares El Greco so last season, and cites the modern and contemporary dealer Ivor Braka as saying;

“Everyone is rushing into contemporary,” said Ivor Braka, a London dealer and collector. “It’s dominated by prestige of ownership, and there’s no prestige to owning an El Greco any more.”

Of course, I look forward to the day when Scott Reyburn (for it is he) quotes an Old Master dealer on the state of the contemporary art market. 

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