Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Rediscovered" Bronzino and Botticelli Flop at Christie's

No sale:  Portrait offered as a Bronzino
The top dog at Christie's Old Masters sale didn't find a buyer today, when a portrait offered as a Bronzino failed to reach its low estimate of $12 million.  The high, unsuccessful bid was half-a-million below that.

Also left out in the cold was a Madonna and Child offered as an early Botticelli (not the so-called Rockefeller Madonna by Botticelli, which sold for a record $10.4 million).  This murky painting had been estimated to go for between $3 million and $5 million, but the high bid, $2.7 million, fell short.

The auction house had hailed both paintings as "rediscovered," their new attributions vouched for by prominent art historians.  (See my earlier post previewing the sale, here.) 

Other newly attributed paintings fared better.  An Annunciation now given to Annibale Caracci, estimated at $1.5-$2.5 million, sold for $3.44 million (including premium), and a rediscovered Watteau, estimated at $500,000-$700,000, sold for $602,500 (including premium).
Pulzone portrait that sold for $6.7 million
The work with the second-highest estimate ($10-$15 million), Fra Bartolommeo's Madonna and Child, sold for $11.5 million (without premium).

The true star of the show, though, may well be a portrait by Scipione Pulzone ("Il Gaetano"), one of the most sought-after portrait artists in 16th-century Rome -- clients included popes and secular rulers.  The portrait of Jacopo Boncompagni went for more than twice its high estimate of $2.5 million, finding a new home at $6.7 million (without premium).

The Fra Bartolommeo, Caracci, and Pulzone prices were auction records for the artists.

Text and photos (c) Copyright 2013 Laura Gilbert