Sleeper alert

May 31 2022

Video: Dawson's Auctions

Art historian Michael Lobel has alerted me to a 'Follower of Filippino Lippi' Madonna which soared above estimate to make £255,000 hammer at a regional UK auction house. With trimmings that's around £300,000. The local paper the Maidenhead Advertiser has the story here, and the catalogue entry with images is here. The picture was once attributed to Dosso Dossi. 

An interesting aspect of the sale is the auctioneer's reaction to it. They've made a video of the sale, above, where the bidding started at £3,000. Back in the day, if you bought a 'sleeper' (that is, a potentially mis-catalogued painting) you generally wanted it to remain dozing until you'd done all the research and conservation required to suggest a painting's new attribution. But these days, with social media and auction houses keen to publicise any high price, that's more or less impossible. News of your purchase can be round the world before you've even collected it. I suspect sometimes that might actually depress bidding, since most dealers don't want people to know so easily what they paid for something - that's why sleepers are such a prize, because they don't 'look up' on the art sale databases. So the true sleeper these days is essentially one which only you bid on, and which the rest of us may never know about. It doesn't happen often...

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