NEW YORK – On Nov. 4 at Sotheby’s, The Finding of Moses, a 19th century masterpiece by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, sold for $35,922,500, more than seven times the presale high estimate of $5 million.
The monumental canvas was pursued by three determined bidders who battled for nearly eight minutes. Soon after auctioneer and vice chairman Benjamin Doller opened the bidding on the spectacular painting, it quickly rose to more than $20 million in a battle between two clients participating by phone. Suddenly, a new bidder in the room entered the fray, raising a paddle at $23.5 million. After several more minutes, the painting sold to one of the original phone bidders for $35.9 million, a new record for the artist at auction. The previous record for the artist had, in fact, been set by this exact painting when it was sold in 1995 for $2.8 million.
At one time, the artwork belonged to Allen Funt, creator of the popular prank show Candid Camera. His collection of masterworks by Alma-Tadema was exhibited in a landmark show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1973. Prints of the painting were previously used by Cecil B. DeMille’s scriptwriters and designers as inspiration for scenes from Cleopatra (1934) and The Ten Commandments (1956).
The Alma-Tadema painting was part of Sotheby’s sale of 19th Century European Art that brought a total of $61,536,125 and featured a number of other very strong prices. A new auction record was also established for Giovanni Boldini when his stunning Portrait of Giovinetta Errazuriz sold for $6,578,500, more than four times the high estimate of $1.5 million. The sale also included two works from the collection of the actress Demi Moore — William Bouguereau’s Frère et Soeur which sold for $1,082,500 and Alfred Stevens’s Mère et ses Enfants, which brought $182,500.
All prices attributed to Sotheby’s are inclusive of a buyer’s premium of 25% on the first $50,000; 20% between $50,001 and $100,000; and 12% on the remainder above $100,000.
# # #