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19th Century European Painting – from Academic and Barbizon to Orientalist and Victorian
Jules Breton, Washerwomen of the Breton Coast. Oil on canvas. 53 ¼ by 79 ¼ in. (135 by 201 cm) Est. $400/600,000. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Polly Sartori, Director of 19th Century Paintings, said, “We achieved a strong sale total of $10.8 million today with a selective offering of important works. Collectors continue to be interested in high quality pictures, and we saw great interest leading up to the sale; however we did see caution among bidders and a higher unsold rate than usual. Four bidders competed for John Frederick Lewis’s The Kibab Shop, which sold for $3.4 million, the second highest price ever paid for a work by the artist and our highest price for a 19th Century painting in New York since spring of 2006. To sell a painting at this level in this new market is a wonderful accomplishment.”

Among the highlights are a number of recently rediscovered works by artists such as Giovanni Boldini, Ludwig Deutsch, and Jules Breton, including his Washerwomen of the Breton Coast, which had been lost since the 1890s (est. $400/600,000). The Washerwomen was one of the first major Breton pictures to enter an American collection, purchased most likely in the early 1870s by Edwin Denison Morgan, Governor of New York during the beginning of the Civil War, and trusted advisor to Abraham Lincoln. Morgan promoted Breton’s reputation in America (as well as his own as a major collector) by sharing his impressive art collection with friends in his Washington, D.C. and New York homes, where The Washerwomen was a visitors’ favorite. After Morgan’s death, the painting was sold in his estate sale to another wealthy New York financier. Despite the importance of the work to Breton’s early career, his American reputation, and the power of the men who first owned it, by the turn of the 20th Century the painting had disappeared from view and record – only to emerge recently in a private French collection. The Washerwomen of the Breton Coast’s exhibition at Sotheby’s New York will be the first public viewing in the United States in over 130 years.

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