Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sotheby's Sells JMW Turner's Watercolour, Bamborough Castle For GBP 2.9 Million

Sotheby's Sells JMW Turner's Watercolour, Bamborough Castle For GBP 2.9 Million

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J.M.W. Turner, Bamborough Castle, watercolour, estimate: £1.5–2.5 million. © Sotheby's Images.

LONDON.-Sotheby’s Evening sale of Old Master Paintings tonight shattered all expectations, doubling its low estimate of £16.1 million and realising a total £32,802,400 ($67,399,091). Over 60% of the lots sold achieved prices in excess of their pre-sale estimates, with 9 lots selling for more than a £1 million, and 13 lots for more than $1 million. 12 new artist’s records were established.

Discussing the sale, Alex Bell, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Worldwide, said: “Tonight’s fantastic result shows the great strength that exists across the board in the market for Old Master Paintings. There was depth of bidding from private collectors and dealers from Europe, the United States and even further afield. We were very pleased with the vigorous competition for quality works across a range of categories, and indeed for the best things the market is as robust as I have ever seen it.”

The highest price of the evening was for a remarkable pair of oils (lot 75) by Canaletto depicting two of the most famous views in Venice; the entrance to the Grand Canal and the Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. Most probably painted during Canaletto’s stay in England (1746-1755), the two works made £4,724,500 (est: £1.5-2 million).

Close behind the Canaletto paintings was a small-scale portrait by Frans Hals (lot 29), which made £4,668,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £800,000-1,200,000. For much of the 20th century, this dynamic rendering of one of Hals’ close friends was in the collection of the Canadian railway magnate Sir William Horne; it is one of only 7 paintings by Hals to have been sold at auction in the last 20 years.

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s watercolour, Bamborough Castle, also performed well this evening, selling for £2,932,500, against a pre-sale estimate of £1.5-2.5 million. It was purchased by a US private collector who was bidding on the telephone. Tonight’s result ranks Bamborough Castle among the most important of Turner’s works ever sold at auction. Dating from the mid 1830s, Turner’s Bamborough Castle has spent most of its life to date in a distinguished private collection and had not been seen on the open market since 1872.

Recently discovered in an attic in Germany, a previously unrecorded work by Rembrandt’s celebrated pupil Ferdinand Bol (lot 27) soared above its £60,000-80,000 estimate, selling for £1,364,500 and establishing a new auction record for the artist. An early work, painted in the early 1640s, The Angel appearing to Elijah had been in the same family’s collection since the early 18th century and had never before been seen in public.

A newly reattributed work by one of the rarest of Holland’s great still life painters, Jan Jansz. Den Uyl the Elder, made £1,812,500 (est: £1,000,000 – 1,500,000), establishing an new auction record for the artist. No comparable work by the artist has appeared at auction for almost 20 years. Many other works in the sale achieved prices well in excess of their pre-sale estimates: a rare work by Siennese artist Domenico Beccafumi showing the Holy Family (lot 55) made £1,140,500, over four times its low estimate of £250,000; Festoon of Fruit and Flowers in a Marble Niche by Jan Davidsz de Heeem (lot 38), made £1,140,500 – almost four times its low estimate of £300,000; and lot 48, a 15th-century triptych by the Master of the Legend of Saint Barbara, made double its estimate, selling for £1,140,500.

The sale included 15 works from a distinguished Swedish collection, put together in the 18th century by nobleman Gustaf Adolf Sparre (1746-1794). Prior to tonight’s sale, most of the works in the Sparre collection had not been seen on the market since the 1770s. Their freshness to the market, together with their quality, attracted strong competition: together the works from the collection made a combined total of £3,134,100 against an estimate of £1,930,000 - £2,750,000. Among the highlights in the Sparre collection was a re-discovered grisaille oil sketch (lot 6) by Anthony van Dyck showing The Crucified Christ adored by Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena . Estimated at £300,000-400,000, it made £558,100.

Alongside the Sparre collection was that of Greek financier Dimitri Mavrommatis. Together, the works from this collection – which included the Canaletto paintings - made a combined total of £8,007,600 against a low estimate of £3,290,000. A remarkable pair of paintings by Vanvitelli (lot 74) also performed well. Previously unpublished, and in the same family’s ownership since the end of the 18th century, the two works made £1,924,500 (est: £1-1.5 million).

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