LONDON – Christie’s Summer 2021 edition of London Classic Week concluded on July 15 realizing a combined total of £96,012,125 / $132,301,729 / €111,895,390, with 20% growth in new buyers and bidders vs. comparable 2019 sales series. Comprising seven live auctions and two online-only sales, the strength of this result is a fitting tribute to the inspirational creativity and craftsmanship offered from antiquity to the 20th century.Karl Hermanns, Global Managing Director, Classic Art Group commented: “We are thrilled to end Christie’sstrong season with one of the most successful sets of Classic Art auctions in several years, even in the environment with travel still somewhat restricted. Christie’s remarkable market leadership in the last two weeks is testament to the strength that our Classic Art teams and global network have in market insight, relationships with established buyers and sellers, and ability to attract new buyers.”
A brief snapshot of the sales highlights:
The Old Masters Evening Sale realized £45,083,250 / $62,079,635 / €52,567,070, marking the strongest sale since July 2016, with only two others having previously exceeded this total during the past 10 years. Selling 94% by value and 78% by lot, the quality, freshness and exceptional provenance of the works offered attracted registered bidders from 102 countries across four continents, including active participation from multiple museums, with the Frans Hals Museum acquiring A merry company by Dirck Hals and Dirck van Delen from property of the heirs of Jacob Lierens. The top lot of the sale was Bernardo Bellotto’s View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi, which achieved £10,575,000 / $14,561,775 / €12,330,450, against an estimate of £12,000,000-£18,000,000 and set a new record price for the artist. Further highlights included George de La Tour’s arresting image of Saint Andrew, which also set a record price for the artist at auction, and an exquisite cabinet picture by Frans van Mieris achieved more than four times the low estimate, selling for £3,502,500 / $4,822,943 / €4,083,915. Notably the demand for female artists continues, with all three works by Artemisia Gentileschi, Angelica Kauffman and Michaelina Wautier setting the second highest price for each artist, with two more than tripling their original low estimates.
The Exceptional Sale realized £19,537,500 / $26,903,138 / €22,780,725, selling 77% by lot and 85% by value. The breadth and depth of bidding across periods and categories in the sale was notable, highlighted by the top lots spanning Old Master drawings, decorative arts and manuscripts. The sale was led by Head of a bear by Leonardo da Vinci, which set a new world auction record for a drawing by the artist, selling for £8,857,500 / $12,196,778 / €10,327,845. The remarkable Charles I inkstand attributed to silversmith Christiaen van Vianen set a world record price for 17th century silver sold at auction and the second highest price for English silver sold at auction, realizing £1,942,500 / $2,674,823 / €2,264,955 against an estimate of £1,000,000-£1,500,000. The new auction record established for an Isaac Newton manuscript £1,702,500 / $2,344,343 / €1,985,115 against an estimate of £600,000-£900,000 highlights that autograph scientific manuscripts by Newton are of the greatest rarity on the market. Additional records were set for a meteorite and for furniture by the bronzier Ferdinand Barbedienne with the remarkable ‘Japonisme’ aquarium.
These two live-streamed evening sales on July 8 welcomed registered bidders across four continents and set 11 new world record prices at auction.
The B.J. Eastwood Collection: Important Sporting and Irish Pictures on July 9 realized £14,187,750 / $19,522,344 / €16,471,978, more than doubling its pre-sale low estimate, selling 94% by value and 93% by lot. Comprising 30 lots, the collection represented BJ’s prized collection of the last 50 years which showcased his great love of equestrian painting and Irish art. With more than 70% of works selling for more than their high estimate, demand was equally strong for the Sporting and Irish pictures in the sale. The leading lot was Sir Alfred James Munnings’s The Vagabonds, which realized £1,942,500 / $2,672,880 / €2,255,243 against an estimate of £700,000-£1,000,000. A new artist record was set for a work by Paul Henry, for Mountains and Lake, Connemara, painted in 1934, which sold for £622,500 / $856,560 / €722,723 against an estimate of £120,000-£180,000.
The British and European Art auction on July 15 realized £5,266,375 / $7,293,929 / €6,151,126, setting an artist record for Carlos Schwabe with his work on paper La Porte d’or, which sold for £225,000/ $311,625 / €262,800 and a record for a painting by the same artist with L’Ideal, which sold for £93,750 / $129,844 / €109,500. The top lot of the sale was the captivating Sir John Everett Millais’s Nina, daughter of Frederick Lehmann, Esq., which sparked competitive bidding and sold for £500,000/ $692,500 / €584,000, more than doubling the pre-sale low estimate of £200,000-£300,000. Further highlights included the pastel Study of Alexa Wilding by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which sold for £350,000/ $484,750 / €408,800, from the extraordinary group Pre-Raphaelites to Symbolists: Important Drawings & Paintings from The Collection of Hartmuth Jung. European works were led by Gustave Moreau’s Le Lion Amoureux (The Lion In Love), which realized £325,000 / $450,125 / €379,600.
Christie’s Valuable Books and Manuscripts auction on July 14 totaled £3,515,500 / $4,861,936 / €4,116,650. The top lot of the sale was the Caxton Cicero, which achieved £400,000 / $553,200 / €468,400 against an estimate of £250,000-£300,000. Published exactly 540 years ago, it is the first work of classical antiquity ever printed in English by the first printer in England, William Caxton. Further highlights of the sale included Charles Darwin’s first edition On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, which realized £325,000 / $449,475 / €380,575, and Shakespeare’s Third Folio, which sold for £237,500 / $328,463 / €278,112. The Third Folio is the first complete edition of the plays of Shakespeare and the rarest of the four Folios.
Christie’s Antiquities auction on July 7 totaled £2,549,875 / $3,504,211 / €2,960,411, achieving sell-through rates of 80% by lot and 82% by value. The top lot of the sale was an Amlash pottery female figure (Iran, circa early 1st millennium BCE, estimated at £10,000-£15,000), which realized £312,500 / $430,937 / €364,063, establishing a world auction record for an Amalsh pottery figure. Further leading lots included a Greek bronze helmet of Corinthian type (Archaic period, circa mid-6th century BCE, estimated at £40,000-£60,000), which achieved £200,000 / $275,800 / €233,000, and an Irish bronze side-blow horn (late Bronze Age, circa 8th-7th century BCE, estimated at £30,000-£50,000), which realized £162,500 / $224,087 / €189,313.
The sales series also presented a broad array of stellar works across Old Master and British Drawings and Watercolors including a Fine Collection of Old Master Prints realized £3,052,375 / $4,236,697/ €3,559,069 and established new record prices for works by Guercino and Ter Borch; Old Master Paintings & Sculpture Online achieved £2,190,500 / $3,014,128 / €2,543,171 and set two new record prices for works by Lucas van Uden and Andrea Bianchi, Il Vespino; The Collection of Rita Espirito Santo and Three Private European Collections which realized £680,500 / $944,534 / €794,824.