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Sotheby's Sale of 19th Century European Paintings in London Realises 10,858,075 Pounds
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Femmes au bain, oil on canvas. Estimate: £500,000 - 700,000. Sold for: £668,450 (€802,009). Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s sale of 19th Century European Paintings in London today realised £10,858,075 / €13,027,566 - within the pre-sale estimate of £9,870,000-14,564,000 / €11,842,070-17,473,952, and obtaining sell through rates of 71.3% by lot and 78.9% by value. Public institutions pitted themselves against private collectors and trade, driving prices over estimate in many instances.

One of the finest figure paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot ever to have appeared on the market was purchased by the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva for £1,609,250 / €1,930,785, exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of £1.2 million. Jeune femme à la fontaine enjoyed an exceptional early provenance before it was requisitioned during the Nazi period, and was recently restituted to the heirs of its erstwhile owners.

Adrian Biddell, Head of 19th Century European Paintings, said after the sale: “We were extremely pleased with the results from today’s sale. We saw competitive bidding from all corners of Europe and beyond. In particular, collectors of Orientalist and German, Austrian and Central European paintings demonstrated an appetite for premium works of quality and rarity.”

Paul Lang, Chief Curator of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the museum has been successful in obtaining this beautiful painting by Corot. Corot is central to our collection and it now completes the museum’s permanent retrospective of the artist. The State of Geneva first purchased two pictures by Corot in 1859, and this collection grew to fourteen works in the intervening years, encompassing a nude, a portrait, and landscapes painted in Italy, Switzerland and Ville-d’Avray. What was missing was one of the artist’s ‘figures de fantaisie’. Over the last ten years the museum has been keen to acquire such a picture. Today, with the addition of this fifteenth work to the collection, we now have a total overview of Corot’s work, as we prepare for an exhibition of Corot in Switzerland, opening in September 2010.”

Orientalist works
Orientalist works offered today (lots 98-179) realised a combined total of £3,647,850 / €4,376,707. French Orientalist Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Femmes au bain, depicting female bathers in the grand baths at Bursa, sold to a UK private buyer for £668,450 / €802,009, comfortably within its estimate of £500,000-700,000. A striking scene of Cairo – entitled Le Muezzin – by Gérôme sold for £421,250 / €505,418, against an estimate of £350,000-500,000. Painted in 1865, the evocative painting captures the moment on a hot afternoon when a muezzin begins his call to prayer atop a minaret, and Cairo falls silent below him. The high dome seen in the background of the scene is believed to be the famed mosque of Sultan Hassan.

Other notable works in the Orientalist section were In the souk, Tunis by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, which sold for £139,250 / €167,073, against an estimate of £100,000-150,000, and Rudolf Ernst’s The Nubian Guard, bought by a private collector for £361,250 / €433,429 in line with the pre-sale estimate of £300,000 500,000. Discussing the sale, Claude Piening, Senior Director, Sotheby’s 19th Century Paintings Department, said: “Today’s sale proved that the market for top quality Orientalist paintings by the great masters is particularly buoyant, with global collectors keen to enter competitive bidding to acquire these works.”

International interest in Spanish paintings
El Bautizo (The Christening) by Joaquín Sorolla sold for £825,250 / €990,139 to a private collector.

Aurora Zubillaga, Managing Director of Sotheby’s Spain, said: “In today’s sale we have seen a growth in international interest for important works by Spanish artists. Four of the top ten lots in this sale of European paintings were from this section. Once again, Sorolla has shown he is unquestionably the leading Spanish painter of this period. We are delighted with the sale of El Bautizo, a masterpiece in his oeuvre which sold for just shy of €1 million. We are also very pleased with the prices achieved for other representative artists, such as Rusinol and Anglada Camarasa. In these times of financial uncertainty, we are very encouraged by the results obtained and we trust we will be able to offer a similarly attractive group of works in our upcoming sale in November.”

German, Austrian and Central European artists
The German, Austrian and Central European Paintings (lots 1-47) realised a combined total of £1,797,325 / €2,156,438, above the high estimate for this section (£1.73 million / €2.07 million).

Works by German artists fared extremely well. Among them, Lotte Laserstein’s masterpiece Abend über Potsdam (Evening over Potsdam) found itself at the centre of a protracted bidding battle, finally selling to an anonymous bidder for £421,250 / €504,657 - leaving the pre-sale estimate of £120,000-180,000 far behind and establishing a new auction record for the artist.

Other German works were also the subject of intense bidding. Three works by Carus consigned for sale by the direct descendants of the artist got the auction off to a flying start. In particular Ruine Eldena mit Hütte bei Greifswald im Mondschein (Ruins of the Eldena Monastery, Greifswald) by Carl Gustav Carus sold for £111,650 / €133,757, almost double the pre-sale high estimate of £50,000, and establishing a new record for the artist at auction. Kloster Monte Oliveto bei Florenz (The Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, near Florence) by the same artist aroused a similar level of keen competition, with a host of interested parties driving the price up to a final £46,850 / €56,126 (est. £8,000-12,000). Lovis Corinth’s Rosenstilleben (Still Life with Roses) sold for £125,250 / €145,257.

Polish works in general sold very well. Ladislaus von Czachorski’s The Blossom of Youth realised £145,250 / $174,009, and strong prices were also achieved for Stanislaw Wyspianski (The Artist’s Wife and Daughter, sold for £37,250 / €44,693), Bohdan von Kleczynski (Resting Cossaks, sold for £27,500 / €32,995) and Julian Falat (Royal Hill, Krakow, sold for 11,875 / €14,248). Serbian artist Vlaho Bukovac’s The Artist’s Daughters made £46,850 / €56,211, and two works by the Hungarian Mihaly Zichy also garnered considerable interest, tripling their pre-sale estimates when they sold for £30,000 (€35,994) each.

Commenting on the German, Austrian and Central European Paintings section of the sale, Claude Piening, Senior Director 19th Century European Paintings, said: “Today’s sale kicked off with the resounding success of the works by Carl Gustav Carus which came from the family of the artist. The impeccable provenance and quality of these works has clearly attracted bidders for these lots and his Ruine Eldena mit Hütte bei Greifswald im Mondschein set a new record for the artist at auction when it sold for £111,650. Carus’s tiny landscape Kloster Monte Oliveto bei Florenz soared to almost four times the high estimate. This section also saw records for Charles Atamian, Dora Hitz and Lotte Laserstein.”

Scandinavian works
The Scandinavian works offered today (lots 209-244) realised a combined total of £1,224,950 / €1,469,700.

• Swedish works: Carl Larsson demonstrated once again his international appeal. Esbjörn sold for £181,250 / €217,465.

• Norwegian works: Christian Krohg’s Leif Erikkson Oppdager Amerika (Leif Erikkson Discovers America) sold for £205,250 / €246,260. Meanwhile, Johan Christian Dahl’s Utsyn Fra Feigumfossen I Lysterfjorden (View of the Feigumfoss in Lysterfjord) realised £121,250 / €145,476. An early work by Edvard Munch – To På Vei Mot Skogen (Couple On The Path To The Forest) – made £175,250 / €210,266.

• Danish artist Paul Fischer’s Højbro Plads, Copenhagen sold for £51,650 / €61,970.

• Finnish works: A charcoal on paper, Inez, En Face by Helene Schjerfbeck, made £31,250 / €37,494.

Sotheby's | Paul Lang | Adrian Biddell | 19th Century European Paintings |

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