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Did you ever contemplate the Catholic Church’s bankruptcy sale? That’s what it felt like previewing Sotheby’s Masters sale on January 26-28. There were more Madonnas and Child than you could shake a bishop's crozier at, most of which tanked. As far as paintings go, this has always been a tricky subject matter to move, even in boom times. Strangely enough, one of the only pieces to triple estimate in the sale - and my favorite piece - was a far out but unsigned work titled “Death Leading Hells Army," and for some reason attributed to English School. Seems that I wasn’t the only one who thought this possibly a serious piece, estimated at $50k plus, it sold for $162,000.

As is common place at these Old Masters sales, there were a lot of buy-ins, but those works that sold, sold well, therefore we can deduce that if in general brown is down, then fresh is best, and is still selling in the world of Old Masters.

First night was the Taubman Sale which grossed $24 million. The star lot? A Gainsborough titled Blue Page which found a buyer at over $3million. The following evening sale, saw a Gentileschi sell for $30million. For once Sotheby’s topped Christie’s with a generous helping of the Gentileschi. For a moment there during the sale, it felt like ‘the good old days’ in the Old Masters market.

Sotheby’s sold $94m of Old Masters, and Christie’s moved $3m. Overall, the combined total of the three sales adds up to double any total in recent years, so there is a glimmer of light there, somewhere. As an after thought here, why not just loose the word ‘Old’?


Taubman Sale:

08A1aadDSC 0018belliLot 8. Raffaelo Sanzio, Called Raphael, Portrait of Valero Belli, Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000, Sold 3,250,000

21aDSC 0006aadLot. 21, Jacopo Ligozzi, The Abduction of the Sabine Women, Estimate 600,000 — 800,000, pass

30aDSC 0010aadLot 30. Matthias Stomer, Christ DIsputing with the Doctors, Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000 Lot Sold 2,650,000

50aDSC 0995aadLot 50. Bernardo Bellotto, Venice, A View of the Grand Canal Looking East, Estimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 Lot Sold 3,010,000

57aDSC 0991aadLot 57. John Frederick Herring, Sr., Bessy Bedlam, Bay Racehorse with Jockey up on a Racecourse, Estimate 60,000 — 80,000 Lot Sold 40,000

62aDSC 0017Lot 62. Thomas Gainsborough, The Blue Page, Estimate 3,000,000 — 4,000,000 Lot Sold 3,250,000

 Total for Taubman Old Master Evening Sale $24,128,000


The Road to Rome: Property from a Distinguished Italian Private Collection

304RDSC 0061aadLot 304. Ippolito Caffi, Venice, A View of the City under Snow with the Church of the Salute, Estimate 150,000 — 200,000 Lot Sold 460,000

305rDSC 0045AADLot 305. Ippolito Caffi, Venice, A Nocturnal View of Piazza San Marco with the Ducal Palace, Estimate 40,000 — 60,000 Lot Sold 225,000

315rDSC 0062aadLot 315. Gaspar Van Wittel, Called Vanvitelli, Tivoli, A View of the Waterfalls and the Villa of Maecenas, Estimate 200,000 — 300,000, unsold

318rDSC 0044aadLot 318 (pair). Hendrik Frans Van Lint, Called Lo Studio, Rome, A View of the Colosseum from the Top of the Caelian Hill Estimate 40,000 — 60,000 Lot Sold 87,500

318rDSC 0050aadLot 318 (pair). Hendrik Frans Van Lint, Called Lo Studio, Rome, A View of St. Peters from the Top of the Monte Mario, Estimate 40,000 — 60,000 Lot Sold 87,500

321rDSC 0058aadLot 321. Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, Rome, A View of Piazza Navona with elegantly Dressed Figures, Estimate 150,000 — 200,000 Lot Sold 298,000

322rDSC 0038aadLot 322. Ippolito Caffi, Rome, A View of Saint Peter's Basilica and Square with Crowds Awaiting a Papal Audience, Estimate 120,000 — 180,000 Lot Sold 382,000

324rDSC 0042aadLot 324. Gaspar Van Wittel, Called VanVittelli, Rome, A View of the Castel Sant'Angelo From Prati, Estimate 300,000 — 400,000 Lot Sold 370,000

333rDSC 0053aadLot 333 Bernardo Bellotto, A Capriccio River Landscape with a Church to the Left, Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000, pass

 Road to Rome Afternoon Sale 1, total $6,572,000

Old Master Paintings Evening Sale

a07DSC 0967aadLot 7. Attributed to Jan Sanders Van Hemesse, Portrait of a Man, Half Length, Standing Before a Green Curtain, Estimate 150,000 — 200,000 Lot Sold 175,000

a08DSC 0070aadLot 8. Follower of Hieronymous Bosch, Circa 1550, Temptation of St. Anthony, Estimate 300,000 — 400,000 Lot Sold 850,000

a15DSC 0978aadLot 15 Attributed to Hans Hoffman, Circa 1580, Ecce Homo, Estimate 150,000 — 200,000 Lot Sold 274,000

a23DSC 0965aadLot 23. Roelandt Savery, A Rocky Landscape with Travelers, Estimate 300,000 — 500,000 Lot Sold 418,000

a24DSC 0970aadLot 24 Flemish School, 17th Century, The Tower of Babel, Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 Lot Sold 418,000

a25DSC 0982aadLot 25 Floris Van Dijck, Still Life with Melons, Plums, Cherries and Bread on a Table Draped with a White Damask Tablecloth, Estimate 250,000 — 350,000

a27DSC 0950aad

Lot 27. Jacob Jordaens, Saint Martin Healing the Possessed Man, Estimate 4,000,000 — 6,000,000 Lot Sold 4,730,000


a32DSC 0022aadLot 32. Sir Anthony Van Dyck, The Tribute Money, Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000, pass

Susan Grundy expressed an opinion that the above painting was wrong, this writer disagrees and while not a Van Dyck expert, on viewing the work, I was immediately reminded of a related work in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum. That piece is titled, “The Mocking of Christ," and it has virtually the same figures on the right side, with very similar beards, and this is the kind of thing one notices when looking at paintings in person and not photos of paintings, the Princeton example also had similar shrinkage in the glazes around the hair.

a35DSC 0974aadLot 35. Josefa De Ayala E Cabrera, Called Josefa De Óbidos, Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth and Angels, Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 Lot Sold 250,000

a41DSC 0026aadLot 41. Orazio Gentileschi, Danaë, Estimate 25,000,000 — 35,000,000 Lot Sold 30,490,000

Considered by some to be one of the finest baroque paintings ever on the market, this work had an extraordinary exhibition history at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Museum. formerly the property of legendary dealer Richard Feigen, the work was sold by him to benefit a trust fund set up for his children on their behalf.

a42DSC 0986aadLot 42. English School, Circa 1800, Death Leading Hell's Army, Estimate 50,000 — 70,000 Lot Sold 162,500

A true mystery as to who did this ghoulish masterpiece. This writer thought aloud it may have been by an American, not English, named Charles Deas, known for madcap scenes of the American frontier in the first half of the 19th century. One of his lost paintings, "Visions of Hell" At $162,000, more than triple the estimate, some buyer sure thinks they knew who did this painting.

a48DSC 0961aadLot 48. Pieter Jansz, Saenredam, The Town Hall at Harlem with the Entry of Prince Maurits to Replace the Governers in 1618, Estimate 2,500,000 — 3,500,000 Lot Sold 3,010,000

a50DSC 0945aadLot 50. Johann Georg Platzer, The Dedication of the Temple of Solomon in Jeruslaem, and Destruction by titus of the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem, a pair, Estimate 600,000 — 800,000, pass

a52DSC 0932aadLot 52. Gaspar Van Wittel, Called Vanvitelli, Rome, A View of the Church of Santi Marcellino E Pietro, From the Vigna Ciccolini, with the Palazzo Laterano, The Church of San Giovanni in Laterano, the Ospedale di San Giovanni and Ruins of the Claudian Aqueduct Beyond, Estimate 1,000,000 — 2,000,000, pass

a56DSC 0929aadLot 56. Antonio Joli, London, A View of the City of Westminster over the River Thames from Lambeth, Estimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 Lot Sold 1,690,000

a59DSC 0068aadLot 59. Giovanni Antonio Canal, Called Canaletto, An Interior View of the Henry VII Chapel, Westminster Abbey, Estimate 5,000,000 — 8,000,000

a60DSC 0924aadLot 60. Horatio McCulloch, Kilchurch Castle, Loch Awe, Estimate 200,000 — 300,000 Lot Sold 286,000

There can only be one - Highlander

a61DSC 0919aadLot 61. Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A., The Lauerzersee with Schwyz and the Mythen, Switzerland, Estimate 1,000,000 — 1,500,000, pass

Master Paintings Evening Sale Total $53,473,500 USD

Three Day total of Old Masters at Sothebys $94,783,375


Christies Rockefeller Center Results 3,201,688 (U.S. dollars) 

Screen Shot 2016 01 21 at 18.29.31

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About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...