Category: Auctions

Sleeper Alert!

September 28 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Wannenes

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This portrait catalogued as 'Circle of Rembrandt' made €60,000 (hammer price) over its €500 - €800 estimate last week at Wannenes Auctions in Italy. The vigorous brushwork and dark tones suggest to me that it more Italian than Dutch, but click on the link above to see for yourselves.

$80m Botticelli at Sotheby's

September 24 2020

Image of $80m Botticelli at Sotheby's

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Mon Dieu! Sotheby's have announced that they will be offering an $80m work by Sandro Botticelli in their January auction in New York. The portrait of a young man holding a roundel is one of the last great works by the master in private hands, and will carry the largest estimate ever set for an old master at Sotheby's.

The painting's provenance sounds rather intriguing too:

The portrait, Young Man Holding a Roundel, is recorded as being in the collection of Lord Newborough at Caernarfon in Wales in the 1930s. It is believed to have been purchased by his ancestor Sir Thomas Wynn, the first Lord Newborough, while living in Tuscany.

It apparently hung in an anteroom unknown to the outside world, its importance unrecognised. It was bought by a dealer who sold it to a private collector whose heirs sold it at auction to the present owner in 1982 for £810,000.

Over the past 50 years it has had periods of extended loan to the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.


Once again it is proven that stormy seas can bring unexpected treasures to the shores. It will be interesting to see what state the art market, and the world for that matter, will be in after the November Presidential election.


Update - More details have emerged at the end of last week regarding the painting's owner. It has been consigned for sale by the real estate magnate Sheldon Selow. Selow is reported to have purchased the work for $1.3m at auction in 1982. 

Paris Biennale at Christie's

September 23 2020

Image of Paris Biennale at Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz

In June I reported the news that this year's Paris Biennale would be replaced with an online sale at Christie's Paris. The catalogue for the Biennale sale has just been uploaded to their website. This diverse sale features old master paintings, antiquities, modernist sculpture and fine furniture from a variety of different periods. It includes lots from some of France's top dealers.

The old master paintings side of things is very well represented. The highlight is the above Summer Harvest by Pieter Bruegel the Younger. Estimated at €400,000 - €600,000, the work has been offered for sale by the gallery owned by the fair's president Georges de Jonckheere. Other artists whose works are up for sale include Jan van Kessel, Herri met de Bles, Jean Baptiste Pater, Marguerite Gerard and Hendrick van Steenwyck the Elder.

Online bidding runs from 24th September - 8th October.

Sleeper Alert!

September 23 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has alerted me to this drawing which sold at Waddingtons in Canada yesterday for $15,600 (inc. premium) over its $200 - $300 estimate. It was catalogued as 'Man in his study looking upwards - 18th century Baroque master, French'. Looks like an image of Saint John with his eagle. 

Sotheby's Results

September 23 2020

Image of Sotheby's Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The mid-season online sale at Sotheby's London ended today bringing in a total of £1,318,968 (inc. premium) with 82.7% of lots sold.

The stand out result was for the picture above, catalogued as 'Follower of Guido Reni' which realised £189,000 (inc. premium) over its estimate of £7k - £10k. The catalogue states that the painting relates to this original work in the Bob Jones University Collection in South Carolina.

As expected with such low enticing estimates, many paintings did manage to double their low estimates. An estimate after all is something of a psychological game, often engineered to get people involved rather than pass lots by.

Some other notable results were this copy of a De Heem which made £21,240 over its £4k - £6k estimate; a grisaille sketch given to a 'Follower of Van Dyck' which realised £27,720 over its £4k - £6k estimate; two portraits 'attributed to Franz Kessler' which made £56,700 over its £12k - £18k estimate; this eighteenth century Spanish colonial painting which made £20,160 over its £4k - £6k estimate; and this James Pollard of the London to Glasgow Mail Coach which made £20,160 over its £4k - £6k estimate. These are not the most enormous results. But they do show that there is still some health in low to mid-range old master market.

Is this a Rubens?

September 23 2020

Image of Is this a Rubens?

Picture: Hammersite

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This drawing made $24,000 yesterday over its $2k - $4k estimate at Hammersite auctions in Tel Aviv yesterday. The auctioneer had catalogued the Woodland Scene as by 'Peter Paul Rubens'.

I'm not sure what the rules are Israel regarding the legalities of catalogue notes, but, in the UK at least if you are auctioning off a work and giving it to an artist in full (no added 'attributed to' or 'Follower of' etc.) then the buyer has the opportunity of legal recourse if it shown to be otherwise. This is why the big auction houses have so many bits of legal text at the back of their printed catalogues.

The auction house had drawn a comparison to this sheet in the Ashomolean Museum in Oxford, which is a recognised work by Rubens. The work also bore provenance linking it to the Estate of Isidor Kaiser, Copenhagen-Hamburg.

As the old saying goes, Caveat emptor.

Salomon Ruysdael Soars

September 22 2020

Image of Salomon Ruysdael Soars

Picture: Pescheteau Badin

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This rather unassuming picture by Salomon Ruysdael soared past its estimate of €40,000 - €60,000 today by achieving a €266,770 (inc. premium) at auction in France. It looks like there is an excellent clean in it, which must have tempted bidders. Equally, the Sedelmeyer provenance must have played its part too!

Christie's October Sales

September 21 2020

Image of Christie's October Sales

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's have published their October Old Master Paintings sale online. This forms part of their New York October Classic week, which also includes the sale of Jayne Wrightsman's collection.

The top lot in the evening sale on 15th October is Ter Brugghen's 'The ill matched lovers' estimated at $2m - $3m. Other interesting lots include the Brooklyn Museum's Cranach of 'Lucretia' is estimated at $1.2m - $1.8m (pictured); a fine Govaert Flinck of an officer in a gorget carries an estimate of $700k - $900k; a newly discovered El Greco portrait bears an estimate of $1m - $1.5m; A rare Jacopo Bellini of the Virgin and Child estimated at $600k - $1m; a energetic Triumph of Galatea by Artemisia Gentileschi carries as estimate of $1m - $1.5m; and a fine Van Dyck of John Count of Nassau-Siegen that won the praise of Reynolds estimated at $800k - $1.2m.

The 'day sale', which will take place in the form of an online auction between 1 - 20 October , hasn't been uploaded yet but can be found here.

Sleeper Alert!

September 21 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Great Western Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above painting catalogued as 'Manner of Waterhouse' realised £42,000 (hammer price) over its £400 - £600 estimate at Great Western Auctions in Scotland over the weekend. It's well worth clicking on the link above the zoom into the brushstrokes! I'm almost certain that we'll see the picture again.

Sleeper Alert!

September 20 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Briscadieu Bordeaux

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News on Twitter (via. @auctionradar) that eleven paintings of 'Inca Emperors' catalogued as 'South American School, 19th Century' made a staggering €1,050,000 over their €4k - €6k estimate on Saturday. The paintings were auctioned off at Briscadieu Bordeaux in France. It looks quite possible that they are much earlier than they might appear to be.

Göring's Prints up for Sale

September 17 2020

Image of Göring's Prints up for Sale


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A reader has alerted me to the macabre provenance of a collection of old master prints coming up for sale in Northern France.

The bound volume of 193 prints by the likes of Van Dyck, Poussin, Guide Reni and Maroni bears stamps and inscriptions showing that it once belonged to Hermann Görring. After being sent to Berlin, presumably during the war, it was later taken by Russian soldiers after the capture of Eagle's Nest on 4th May 1945. It bears stamps purporting to show that it was then sent to Tsarskoe Selo before being distributed to soldiers of the second armoured division. Each of the prints bears an inventory mark.

Brooklyn Museum to Sell 12 Works

September 16 2020

Image of Brooklyn Museum to Sell 12 Works

Picture: Brooklyn Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The NY Times have published an article regarding the Brooklyn Museum's intention to sell 12 works of art to raise funds for the care of its collection. This includes works by Cranach, Courbet, Corot and Donato de' Bardi (pictured).

The article suggests that the sale has been made easier due to an announcement in April this year from the Association of Museum Directors that it would not penalize museums that "use the proceeds from deaccessioned art to pay for expenses associated with the direct care of collections.” The article claims this change has been attributed to the COVID19 pandemic. The association has previously only condoned deaccessioning as a route to raise funds for new acquisitions. It seems that the Brooklyn Museum, who have seemingly long faced financial difficulties, are using this change in rules as an opportunity to find some stability.

The museum hopes to eventually raise $40m to establish a fund allowing them to spend $2m a year for the collection's care. The works will be sold through the auction house Christie's later this year.


Selling the family silver to keep the house is not a new phenomenon. Let's hope this isn't the start of a more widespread trend.

Christie's Paris Results

September 15 2020

Image of Christie's Paris Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's recent Old Master Paintings & Sculpture sale in Paris realised a respectable €5,739,000 (all prices quoted inc. premium) today with roughly 79.6% of lots sold.

The two pictures that flew past their estimates were the ones that were appearing absolutely everywhere on social media. This fine 'Follower of Sofonisba Anguissola' realised 110,000 over its 25k - 35k estimate; and this attractive headstudy of a boy given to the 'Workshop of Rubens' made 137,500 over its 60k - 80k estimate; and this Lucretia by the 'Master of the Female Half Lengths' made 430,000 over its 80 - 120k estimate.

Equally interesting was this 'School of Antwerp - Follower of Rubens' which soared to 274,000 over an estimate of 12k - 18k. Did optimistic bidders spot something that the cataloguers had neglected?

Update - I forgot to mention that this very fine hatted lady by Nicholas Largillière made €1,570,000 over its €600k - €1m estimate in the Christie's Paris sale of Paul-Louis Weiller.

Sotheby's Mid-Season Sale

September 9 2020

Image of Sotheby's Mid-Season Sale

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's mid-season old master paintings sale has been published. The London sale, which will be conducted online, will run from 18 - 23 September 2020.

One is immediately struck by the temptingly low estimates, many of which hover around a few thousand pounds. Can anyone resist a good bargain? As to be expected, several pictures have appeared in previous sales. Overally, this approach might be a very good tactic to encourage all of those who saved up by not going abroad this summer to buy something beautiful for their home.

A few brief highlights include the above Salvator Mundi by Charles Mellin estimate at £6k - £8k; a 14th century 'Florentine School' triptych from the Downside Abbey Trust estimated at £40k - £60k; a 'Workshop of El Greco' of Saint Peter estimated at £8k - £12k; an atmospheric Gerrit Berckheyde of St Bavo Cathedral in Haarlem estimated at £6k - £8k; or equally this very pleasing 18th century 'Irish School' landscape estimated at £5k - £7k. There's also this rather fun 19th century artist's folding easle and chair, once said to be owned by John Constable, estimated at £3k - £5k.

On a personal note, I'm delighted to see this fun portrait by John Westbrooke Chandler, an obscure and chameleon-like artist on whom I contributed an article for the British Art Journal last year.

Gower Makes 8x Low Estimate

September 8 2020

Image of Gower Makes 8x Low Estimate

Picture: Woolley & Wallis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The above portrait by George Gower of Thomas Arundell, later 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour, made 8x its low estimate of £10k - £15k to achieve £82,000 (hammer) at Woolley & Wallis today. This portrait of a fascinating figure from history, with Rothschild Provenance, was always going to do well. It had been the subject of an interesting article in The Art Newspaper this week too.

My favourite lot in the sale was this 'Circle of Thomas Lawrence' pencil drawing on (or mounted to) canvas, which made £9,800 (hammer) over its £200-£300 estimate.

Sleeper Alert!

September 3 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Nye & Company

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News on Twitter (via. @auctionradar) that this painting 'Attributed to Godfried Schalcken' made $36,000 over a $1,500 estimate yesterday at Nye & Company. These very dark pictures are quite difficult to photograph successfully, but someone must have seen through the poor image supplied!

Modigliani Retouching Controversy

September 3 2020

Image of Modigliani Retouching Controversy

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported on controversy that has arisen surrounding a retouched painting by Modigliani. The painting is caught up in a lawsuit between the scholar Marc Restellini and the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, with whom Restellini has been finishing a long awaited catalogue raisonné for the artist.

The most interesting part of the story, it seems to me, is the above painting of Beatrice Hastings Seat (1915). This picture sold at Christie's last year for $4.8m and given to Modigliani in full. Restellini has claimed previously that the auction house should have pointed out that the painting was retouched in the 1950s. The image on the right shows the painting in 1953 showing large areas where the work was clearly unfinished. The scholar's criticisms have also been interpreted as a concerted attempt to correct misattributions made in a previous catalogue raisonné by Ambrogio Ceroni in 1958. 

The article quotes Restellini having said in 1997, when it sold previously, that:

It had been transformed by someone else to make it more marketable. I showed Christie’s the original work’s photograph from the Paul Guillaume archives and said I could never include the painting as it stands today, because to me that is fake.

Christie's, quite rightly I think, have stood by the fact that the picture is still a Modigliani, albeit it a slightly altered state. The old master paintings world has a slightly more liberal view of paintings in different physical and restored states, for example. 

Overall, the story shows how political catalogue raisonné projects can be, especially with an artist whose works commands such high prices on the market.

'Rejected' Van Gogh makes €550,000

September 3 2020

Image of 'Rejected' Van Gogh makes €550,000

Picture: artnews

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A painting attributed to Van Gogh, which the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam had rejected, sold for €550,000 in Germany this week. The Wijk Mill is purported to have been painted during 1883-5 when the artist was imitating seventeenth century Dutch old masters. Dechow, the auction house who sold the work, have had their attribution supported by the German art historian Ulrich Kuder who has written a book on a Van Gogh from this period. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, whose expertise are sought for matters of authentication, have said that they do not believe it is by him.

Whoever bought the work has made quite a big gamble. Trying to get art experts to change their minds on such matters is by no means easy.

Update - A reader has kindly drawn my attention to this article that was published by DE24. Curiously, it explains that the attribution to Van Gogh has been supported by an 'AI Expert'.

To quote the article:

The artificial intelligence (AI) expert, Wolfgang Reuter, sees it differently.

The leading data scientist at the Munich company Alexander Thamm examined the painting using an AI. The result: “The Wijk Mill” actually came from van Gogh with an 89 percent probability.

AI checks digital fingerprints of artists Reuter’s model cannot only be applied to questions about Van Gogh. “Whether Rembrandt, da Vinci or Van Gogh – everyone has style elements and patterns that the algorithm recognizes and learns itself,” he explained to “Bild”.

Here is another article which draws attention to the work's provenance and inscription on the painting which supposedly bears a great similarity to Van Gogh's handwriting.


It seems highly unlikely we're in the position to place our trust in AI models to pass reliable judgements on questions of attributions. However, this won't stop some sections of the scientific community to keep developing methods to come up with the ultimate computer model which will decide who painted what. Afterall, artists are human beings whose individual complexities as deep as the ocean.

Likewise, I'd be interested to hear of an AI development program that has internalised and absorbed all of the complex scholarly literature and catalogue raisonnés on the likes of Van Gogh, for example. That would surely be an interesting exercise, alongside the visual analysis and pattern finding which most AI experts tend to focus on.

Christie's Refute Accusations

September 1 2020

Image of Christie's Refute Accusations

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Telegraph have published an article relating to Christie's public rebuttal of what it calls false accusations from academics and protest movements as to the provenances of cultural artefacts passing through their hands.

The row began over accusations on social media in regards to the sale of a fifteenth century manuscript of the Qur'an which realised £7,016,250 (inc. fees) at auction earlier this June. Despite the work having a secure provenance back to the 1980s, the auction house has been accused of a lack of transparency.

In a statement the auction house said:

We are mindful that there are nuanced and complex debates around cultural property and wish to listen and engage appropriately. However, we are also concerned that there has been a rise in unfounded accusations, spread far and fast on social media, that question the legitimate and legal exchange of these objects and collecting areas.

As a marketplace we should all be concerned and ensure that the debate is balanced.


As previous court cases have highlighted, providing evidence seems to be key here. Auction houses undergo a strict measure of checks as part of their legally required 'due diligence' to ensure no known stolen property passes through their hands. However, as every picture researcher will know all too well from practical experience, finding evidence for provenance can be a very fruitless and time consuming process.

Sleeper Alert!

August 28 2020

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Chiswick Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This intriguing pastel, catalogued as 'Emilian School Mid 18th Century', made £22,000 (hammer price) over its £600 - £800 estimate yesterday at Chiswick Auctions.

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