A few hours ago, at Sothebys
in London, Vilhelm Hammershøis Ida Reading a Letter sold for £ 1,721,250 / Danish Krone 15,747,499 / US$ 2,677,232, surpassing its pre-sale estimate of £500,000-700,000 / Danish Krone 4.57 6.4 million / US$800,000-1,120,000, and establishing a record for the artist at auction and a record for any Danish work of art at auction. The painting was hotly pursued by three bidders on the telephones, before finally selling to an International Private Collector. The price achieved was almost three times above the previous record.
Commenting on the results, Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sothebys Denmark, said: We are thrilled that Hammershøis Ida Reading a Letter established a new record for the artist at auction, and also a record for any Danish work of art at auction. All five paintings by Hammershøi sold at Sothebys today were completely fresh to the market and in excellent condition. They worked well as a group, with each distinctive motif the artists beloved wife, a candlelit interior and a cityscape so representative of Hammershøi.
Continuing, Claude Piening, Senior Director in Sothebys European Paintings Department, said: Bidding was international, with interest from Asia, America, Scandinavia and Central Europe. Hammershøi appeals to the tastes of the 21st-century collector. Exhibitions in London, Tokyo, Denmark and currently Munich continue to attract new admirers of his work, which draws parallels with Vermeer and Whistler, artists with similar sensibilities to those of Hammershøi.
Ida Reading a Letter was one of five paintings by the artist offered at auction at Sothebys today. Together, the group sold for a combined total of £ 4,313,450 / Danish Krone 39,463,209 / US$ 6,709,140, against a pre-sale estimate of £1,450,000 - 2,100,000 / Danish Krone 13,265,867 - 19,212,635 / US$2,255,330 - 3,266,340
Ida Reading a Letter, painted in 1899 (66 by 59cm., 26 by 23¼in.), was among the first works painted by Hammershøi in the rooms of Strandgade 30, an address that was to play a critical role in the development of the painters singular aesthetic. In his subtle use of light, muted tones and subject, Hammershøi perhaps owes his greatest debt to the Dutch seventeenth-century master Johannes Vermeer and he would have seen Vermeers works first-hand on a trip to Holland in 1887. The composition is remarkably similar to Vermeers Woman Reading a Letter to the extent that it seems impossible Hammershøi did not have this work in mind. The rarefied light is the principal subject here, with nuances that betray the Danish setting.