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Rare masterpiece by Rembrandt sells for £9.5 million to lead Sotheby's Old Master Evening sale
International collectors vie for works by Dutch and Flemish artists. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- This evening’s Old Master Evening sale at Sotheby’s London totalled 30.2 million / $38.5 million with an exceptional sell-through rate of 86% - the highest ever achieved by Sotheby’s in this category. The evening undoubtedly belonged to Dutch and Flemish art, with the sale led by a rare oil sketch by Rembrandt van Rijn which fetched 9.5 million.

The sale in numbers
Participants from 22 countries with strong bidding from new and traditional markets, particularly UK

86% of lots sold – highest sell-through rate achieved in the category across both London and New York sales

45% of lots achieved prices above top estimates

4 auction records achieved for The Master of the Aachen Altar, The Master of Saint Veronica, Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael (record in sterling) and Erasmus Quellinus the Younger.

Fresh-to-the-market works: almost half of the lots offered this year had not appeared on the market for over 30 years.

Top lots sold tonight
Rare oil sketch by Rembrandt realised 9,480,800 ($12,080,435), over its estimate (lot 18, est. 6 – 8 million). Appearing on the market for the first time in 60 years, the touching portrait of Christ until recently hung in the artist’s house in Amsterdam. In preparation for display in the seminal exhibition “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus” at the Louvre, Paris in 2011, the painting underwent extensive cleaning and conservation during which two fingerprints were found, presumably those of the artist himself.

Royal portraits of King Charles I’s two eldest children by Sir Anthony van Dyck, among the last works painted by the artist, made 2,620,000 ($3,338,404) and 790,000 ($1,006,618) respectively (lots 29 and 30, est. 2-3m and 600,000-800,000). Depicting the eleven year-old Prince of Wales (later King Charles II), and his nine year-old sister Mary (the mother of the future king, William III), the works were painted on the eve of the English Civil War and provide a penetrating likeness of the royal children at a time when their world, and the Stuart monarchy, was on the brink of collapse.

Strong performance for Dutch and Flemish art
• Half of the works in the sale were by Dutch and Flemish artists

• 90% of them sold for a combined a total of 24,685,550 / $31,454,326, well above estimate (est. 16.8 -23.7m)

Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael’s A Harleempje: a panoramic view of Haarlem and the bleaching fields seen from the north-west realised 2,650,000 ($3,376,630) (lot 13, est. 1.5 – 2m). Celebrating the artist’s native city of Haarlem, this work established Ruisdael as the leading landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

One of the finest works by Jan van de Cappelle, A Calm Sea achieved 2,050,000 ($2,612,110) (lot 15, est. 1-1.5 million).

One of Jan Brueghel the Elder’s earliest and most pioneering works, An extensive coastal landscape with fisherman landing and selling their catch, Jonah being cast overboard and offshore, 1595, achieved 1,990,000 ($2,535,658) (lot 11, est. 1.8 – 2.5m).

Aert van der Neer’s Winter landscape with kolf players realised 1,210,000 (1,541,782) (lot 38, est. 1-1.5m). The artist’s winter landscapes are by far his most prized and sought-after paintings

A Winter landscape by Pieter Brueghel the Younger sold for 970,000 ($1,235,974) (lot 27, est. 700,000 – 900,000).

A stunning depiction of Mary Magdalene reading by Ambrosius Benson rose to 730,000 ($930,166) (lot 1, est. 200,000-300,000)

Further highlights from the sale
A beautiful and intensely personal triptych attributed to the Master of Saint Veronica, circa 1410 realised 1,570,000 ($2,000,494) (lot 6, est. 1.2-1.8m).

The arresting and refined depiction of Christ by a close associate of Leonardo da Vinci in around 1510, soared to 874,000 ($1,113,651) (lot 4, est. 250,000 – 350,000).

The sale saw continued interest from the new markets, including the Middle East, Russia and Asia, nurtured by pre-sale activity in each of these locations:

Rembrandt Study for a Head of a Young Man unveiled in mainland China (Shanghai, September 2018)

Rembrandt also exhibited in Dubai, following an earlier exhibition of Rubens’ Portrait of a Venetian Nobleman – the first Old Master painting ever exhibited by Sotheby’s in the Middle East (Dubai, March 2018)

A Brush with Nature – the most extensive selling exhibition of Old Master paintings and drawings in Asia (September 2018)

Works from the sale exhibited in Moscow in November. Tonight’s sale saw Russian bidding on numerous lots in the sale

Ahead of the sale in London

Over 7,250 people visited the pre-sale exhibition.

A late night view, with panel discussion as well as DJ, was advertised on Sotheby’s social platforms, in response to which over 1,500 requests for tickets were received.

Coming up in 2019…
An impressive group of Dutch masterpieces from a distinguished private collector will headline our upcoming Master Paintings Evening Sale on 30 January in New York. Highlights include a remarkably well-preserved copper illustrating a Banquet of the Gods by Dutch Mannerist artist Joachim Anthonisz Wtewael (estimate $5/7 million), a luminous shipping scene by leading Dutch Golden Age painter, Jan van de Capelle (estimate $4/6 million) and two quiet street scenes by Jacobus Vrel, estimated at $1.5/2 million and $1/1.5 million.

• Jan van de Capelle, A shipping scene on a calm sea, with a number of vessels and figures, and a jetty on the left, Estimate $4/6 million

• Joachim Anthonisz Wtawael, The Banquet of the Gods, estimate $5/7 million

• Jacobus Vrel, Street scene with two figures walking away, estimate $1.5/2 million

• Jacobus Vrel, Street scene with figures in conversation, Estimate $1/1.5 million

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