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Sotheby's N. Y. Sale of 19th Century European Art Achieves $26.3 Million
Jéan-Léon Gérôme, French, Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul. © Sotheby's Images.

NEW YORK, NY.- Today at Sotheby’s, the sale of 19th Century European Art including The Orientalist Sale achieved a total of $26,377,050 (est. $23.7/32.9 million). Today’s sale was the first time in almost a decade that Sotheby’s held a dedicated offering of Orientalist Art, highlighted by exceptional masterpieces representing the entire region including North Africa, the Middle East and Turkey, and Sotheby’s was the only auction house to offer such a sale in New York this Spring. The Orientalist Sale, comprising lots 122-212, realized $9,025,750 (est. $7.4/10.3 million), the highest total ever for a dedicated offering of Orientalist Art in New York, and set auction records for several artists including Arthur von Ferraris, Walter Gould, Rudolf Ernst, Clemente Pujol de Gustavino and Federico Bartolini.

Polly Sartori, Head of the 19th Century European Art Department, said, “Seven paintings in today’s auction sold for over $1 million and the average lot value in the sale was $152,000, thereby demonstrating the increased demand for the best examples of this genre, a trend we have been seeing in our market over the last two years. The great Academics were the most popular, led by William Bouguereau and Jean Léon Gérôme, with Vibert’s delightful depiction of Gulliver proving to be one of the most popular paintings we have ever offered in an auction.”

A great selection of works by the Academic painter William Bouguereau were highly sought after in today’s sale. The top lot in today’s sale was the artist’s Le Déjeuner du Matin (Morning Breakfast), which sold for $2,057,000 (lot 33, est. $1.2/1.5 million). La Première Discorde (Cain and Abel), from 1861, a rare example of Bouguereau’s Salon submissions, brought $1,721,000 (lot 67, est. $1.2/1.5 million). La Liseuse, which realized $892,200 (lot 37, est. $250/350,000), depicts a young peasant girl sitting on a stone bench.

The masterpiece Gulliver and the Lilliputians, by the 19th century French artist Jehan-Georges Vibert, was sought after by nearly ten bidders both in the room and on the telephone. Gulliver and the Lilliputians more than doubled its high estimate and set a record for the artist at auction, achieving a price of $1,497,000 (lot 18, est. $500/700,000). This work from 1870, recently discovered in a private American collection, depicts the first chapter of Jonathan Swift’s famous 1726 satire.

Ali Can Ertug, Sotheby’s Vice President for Business Development in Turkey and Emerging Markets, said, “Recognizing the strong international demand for Orientalist paintings, Sotheby’s decided to organize a specialized sale for the spring of 2008 in New York. The Orientalist Sale comprised the best examples of the movement by both American and European artists. The result of over $9 million for The Orientalist Sale was the highest total ever for a sale in this category in New York. ”

The top-selling work of the Orientalist offering was Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Istanbul, Property from the Estate of Mary O’Brien Gibson, Washington, D.C., which fetched $1,945,000 (lot 193, est. $1.8/2.2 million). This major work demonstrates Gérôme’s encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East and his profound respect for some of its most distinctive cultural traditions. In this picture, Gérôme captured in great detail the vibrant colors and unique customs particular to this region.

Other highlights of the Orientalist offering include Walter Gould’s The Public Scribe from 1869, selling for $1,217,000 (lot 187, est. $800,000/1.2 million), setting a record for the artist. This work was chosen for the cover of Gerald Ackerman’s majestic American Orientalists (Paris, 1994). Works by the artist are extremely rare and are marked by an almost impossible clarity, a delicacy and precision of line, an intensity of color, and a haunting stillness that is virtually unparalleled in the genre.

Rudolf Ernst’s The Fountain of Ahmed, III, Istanbul, from 1892, brought $1,273,000, another artist record (lot 186, est. $650/850,000). This work is one of the most elaborate compositions by this artist to be offered for sale in recent years and an outstanding example of the qualities for which he is most admired. Depicting a scene of life in Egypt, Arthur von Ferraris’ Driving a Bargain, Cairo, from 1890, set an artist record, bringing $1,049,000 (lot 174, est. $500/700,000). In this work, two men bargain over a cord of red Islamic prayer beads outside the Mosque of Altinbugha al-Maridani in Cairo. Additional artist records were set for Clemente Pujol de Gustavino’s An Audience Before the Emir, which brought $157,000 (lot 183, est. $150/200,000) and for Federico Bartolini’s Rug Merchants, which sold for $61,000 (lot 162, est. $40/60,000).

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