Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sacre Bleu! Featured Fragonard Fails at Christie's, as Do Memling and Arcimboldo

Giambattista Tiepolo oil sketch, one of the few high points of Christie's Old Masters sale
How will the Christie's publicity machine spin this?

The morning Old Masters sale had few enough high points, though a sparkling Giambattista Tiepolo oil sketch sold for $5.2 million (the highest of the day's sales), about mid-estimate, and a splendid Thomas de Keyser portrait, selling for $1.25 million, left its $500,000 high estimate in the dust.

But the afternoon sale, which broke out the French works, was abysmal, with nearly half the works unsold -- among them the catalogue cover, Fragonard's "The Good Mother."  It was expected to reach $5 to $7 million but the bidding died at $4.2 million. 

Memling's "Virgin Mary Nursing the Christ Child" and a painting attributed to Arcimboldo were among the spectacular flops in the morning sale.

The Memling had an estimate of $6 to $8 million, but the $5.5 million high bid evidently didn't reach the reserve.  The Arcimboldo may have been done in by doubts about its attribution (see the post immediately preceding).

Remember the Pieter Molijn that the Getty Museum restituted to the heirs of Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker last March?  For all the publicity then, no sale today.

Update:  Well, the Christie's press release is out, and there's a bit of good news:  The Thomas de Keyser was purchased by the National Gallery, so one of the loveliest paintings in the sale (see photo in preceding post) should before too long be on public view.

Photo and text Copyright 2012 Laura Gilbert