Alex Bell, Worldwide Co-Chairman of Sothebys
Old Master Paintings Department: It was a great night for British paintings. The fantastic result achieved by the Wright of Derby a picture that epitomises the Enlightenment in Britain - is a real testimony to its quality and importance. It was unusual to have so many early Italian, German and Netherlandish works in one sale and they were particularly well received. Their graphic quality and strong colours clearly appeal to todays aesthetic. There are some exciting dynamics at play in our market, with new buyers from across the geographical spectrum entering the field.
Sothebys London OLD MASTERS EVENING SALE
Totals £25,048,950/ $33,578,117 (est. £18.5 26.9 million)
· Participants spanning 4 continents, with Asian, Russian and Latin American bidding and an increase in Middle Eastern participation.
· 82 % of lots sold (consistent with the strong sale-through rates achieved in July 2017 and Dec. 2016: 85.3 % and 83%)
· Half of the lots sold above high estimates
· 6 auction records (with 4 artists new to auction)
· Fresh-to-the-market Works: Over half of the lots offered tonight had not appeared on the market for over 40 years. 10% of the works had been in the same collection for over 150 years, often remaining in the possession of the families of the original owner.
A Great Night for British Masters:
The category totalled £11,617,950, above estimate (est. £7,120,000-10,180,000)
Top lot: Joseph Wright of Derbys An Academy by Lamplight from 1769 sold for £7,263,700 ($9,736,990) (est. £2.5-3.5 million) an auction record for the artist. Painted in 1769, it is one of the artists most important candlelight pictures, and one of his last major works remaining in private hands. (Previous auction record: £3,647,830 ($7,208,000) set in 2007.
Two recently rediscovered landscapes by John Constable
§ The first sketch for one of the artists most celebrated paintings, The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, c. 181920 (today at Tate Britain) realised £2,289,000 (3,068,404) (est. £1-1.5m).
§ One of the most exciting and important additions to the artists oeuvre to have emerged in the last 50 years, Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood, c. 1814-17, fetched £1,809,000 ($2,424,964) (est. £2-3 m).
The Continued Appeal of Renaissance Works
Nearly half of the works in the sale consisted of pictures from the Early to the High Renaissance. Tonight they realised a combined total of £6.3 million (est. £5.4 7.9m). Among them were the Madonna of Mercy by The Master of 1336 painted in Pistoia around 1340-1350 which sold for £753,000 ($1,009,396) (est. £400,000-600,000).
Italian Painting and Vedute high in demand
A luminous morning view of The Grand Canal, looking north from near the Rialto Bridge, recognised only recently as a work by Bernardo Bellotto, which achieved £2,049,000 ($2,746,684) (est. £2-3m).
A poetic representation of a three-quarter turned young shepherdess playing the flute attributed to the great Bolognese painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi rose to £249,000 ($333,784) (est. £60,000-80,000).
Strong Prices for German Paintings
The sale featured an unusually large group of German paintings which all sold above high estimate and totalled £3,222,000 (est. 1.6-2.3m). A quintessential and iconic mythological work by Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Faun Family realised £789,000 ($1,057,654) (est. £200,000-300,000) and one of the artists finest versions of Lucretia - a favourite subject of the artist - painted circa 1525 which fetched £669,000 ($896,794) (est. £400,000-600,000).
Healthy interest in the Dutch & Flemish Paintings
This section of the sale realised £3.6 million (est. £2.6-3.8m), with An elegant company before a pavilion in an ornamental garden, a fascinating work painted by David Teniers the Younger which sold above the high estimate for £1,569,000 ($2,103,244) (est. £800,000-1,200,000) - 2nd highest price for the artist, highest price since the 1990s.