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World Record Price for Corinthia A Masterpiece by Jean-Leon Gerome
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), Corinthia. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's.

PARIS.- After Old Master Paintings & Drawings, Sotheby's sale of 19th Century Paintings & Drawings brought a total of €2,482,425 from 147 lots.

Pascale Pavageau, head of the 19th Century Painting & Drawings Department, declared herself "satisfied with this evening's results. Sustained bidding, notably for the Winterhalter portraits and works by Russian and Spanish artists, more than compensated for the lesser demand for traditional paintings."

Sculpture specialist Ulrike Goetz was "very happy that a masterpiece by one of the most talented artists of the 19th century should find a place of honour in the Musée d’Orsay. Corinthia was Gérôme's last work, done at the end of his life, and this was the only version of the subject completed during his lifetime."

Corinthia posted the evening's top price of €456,750, a world record for Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). It was consigned by the artist's descendants and acquired by the Musée d’Orsay after fierce bidding from a number of European collectors. This is the original plaster model for the marble version which remained unfinished when Gérôme died in 1904 and was completed by his assistant Emile Decorchement, then shown at the Salon of 1904 (lot 38, estimate €200,000/ 300,000).

Portraits painted by Franz-Xaver Winterhalter in 1851, consigned by Banque Hottinguer, Rue de Provence, Paris, and kept in the Hottinguer family until now, were keenly contested. The first – according to family tradition, the portrait of Baronne Henri Hottinguer, née Caroline Delessert (1814-80), daughter of François-Marie Delessert (1780-1868) and Sophie Gautier – sold for €312,750, comfortably above its high estimate of €200,000 (lot 24). The second portrait showed Baronne Henri Hottinguer's mother, Madame François-Marie Delessert, and sold for €90,750, in line with its high estimate.

Works from the School of Barbizon aroused the interest of European connoisseurs, notably Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's Fontainebleau: Pins et Bouleaux dans les Rochers, no doubt one of the most intricate works he painted in the Forest of Fontainebleau. It was consigned from a private Paris collection and sold for €168,750 against an estimate of €80,000-120,000 (lot 55).

Gaston Bussière's large work, La Révélation: Brünnhilde Découvrant Sieglinde & Siegmund (2.36 x 3.04m), fetched the evening's second best price, a world record for the artist of €46,350. It was pre-empted by the Thomas Henry Arts Museum in Cherbourg (lot 124, estimate €40,000/60,000). Bussière, who studied with Cabanel then Puvis de Chavannes, took his subject from Act II of Richard Wagner's opera Die Walkyrie, premiered in Munich in 1870 and first performed in Paris at the Opera on 12 May 1893.

European collectors responded warmly to a section of Spanish paintings. Young Woman in a Lilac Skirt in front of a Vegetable Store by Mariano Fortuny y Marsal sold for €43,950 against an estimate of €20,000-30,000 (lot 107).

Works by Konstantin Alexeyevich Korovin, consigned from a French collection and acquired directly from the artist, all sold (lots 140-147), led by Le Pêcheur at €39,150 against an estimate of €4000-6000 (lot 144).

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