At $375,000, Fernand Leger painting tops Clarke Auction's February sale

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At $375,000, Fernand Leger painting tops Clarke Auction's February sale
This painting by Leger sold for $375,000.

LARCHMONT, NY.- Clarke Auction Gallery billed its February 6 auction as an “Awesome Estates Auction” and the sale more than lived up to expectations, seeing robust performers across the board. The undisputed star of the auction though was a Fernand Leger painting that attained $375,000, including the buyer’s premium.

Sold fairly early on in the sale, the painting had already attracted quite a bit of attention before the auction, shortly after the catalog went online. The bidding action on this lot may not have been very dramatic but four very determined bidders drove the price up and up, making for a stellar result.

The circa 1954 gouache, titled “Les loisirs,” depicted figures engaged in leisure activities and was a motif the artist often repeated throughout his career. This work is markedly similar in composition to his lithograph, “Le Picnic.” Opening at $125,000, the painting steadily climbed and within a few minutes, one bidder was left standing, a private art collector in the United States.

“We already knew we had something special on our hands but once the painting hit the Internet, we were inundated with phone calls, emails and a lot of interest,” said owner and auctioneer Ronan Clarke. “I am thrilled to sell such a fine and important painting but the overall results of the auction are even more exciting in demonstrating market strength and buyers’ continued appreciation for fine antiques and art.”

The Leger was but one painting in a strong group of fine art offerings that achieved hearty results. Standout works crossed oceans, centuries and mediums from a signed Alexandre Cabanel (French,1823-1889) painting, “Contemplation or The Italian Servant,” that sold well over estimate at $55,000 to an untitled map-drawing of Las Vegas by Saul Steinberg (American, 1914-1999) ink, colored pencil, and graphite on paper, 1958 that earned $40,000. According to the Saul Steinberg Foundation, the drawing’s original title was “Saul Steinberg Stops for the Night.”

Three-dimensional art was prominently featured and bronzes especially found favor with buyers, led by a fine example by Angel Botello (Puerto Rico, 1913-1986), “Girl with ponytail.” The signed and numbered work (10/12) stood 13½ inches tall and fetched $18,750. Another fine bronze crossing the block was a large and well-executed abstracted sculpture by M. Hudecesk of figures, dated 1967 on the base. Measuring 27 by 25 inches, the powerful piece also earned $18,750.

As the auction took place about a week before Valentine’s Day, buyers clearly had gift shopping on their minds and a signed Ilias Lalaounis 18K gold necklace certainly would fit the bill. Going out just over its high estimate at $10,000, the lavalier style necklace featured a handhammered and matte finish to beads and the drop pendant can be unscrewed for an alternative look.

Many lots outperformed their estimates and even if they didn’t score five-figures prices, the sum total of these items that achieved good prices made for a strong auction. Nearly every collecting category represented in the auction made a good showing, particularly the Asian arts category. Highlights included a pair of Asian (probably Chinese) spinach jade table dividers that doubled high estimate to bring $11,875 and an Asian red lacquered and giltwood carved wood Buddha that attained $7,500, well over its $400-600 estimate. Each of the hands in the 12-arm figure was in a different position with one holding an open vessel and another holding a leaf.

Rounding out the auction were a Reed & Barton Francis I sterling tea service that sold comfortably within estimate at $6,875 and an Art Nouveau vase attributed to Raoul Francois Larche that was gilt decorated and also made $6,875. Selling at $7,500 was an antique Continental 18K gold and enamel decorated hinged box, most likely Italian, with a central Venetian scene exhibiting masterful use of enamel in the sunset and surrounded by a robin’s egg blue border.

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