Idiosyncratic market highlights, irreverent collecting ideas, and important Old Masters news.
It’s a new world since January 2021 when I debuted this column. We’re at least a handful of frat house names into COVID-19 variants and apparently the metaverse and NFTs are here to stay with museums such as the Uffizi to the Belvedere to the British Museum banking on this wave.
Meanwhile, the Old Masters market is on a wild upswing, pandemic or not, from NYC debut of the Dürer (?!?!) drawing that found in an estate sale for $30 in Massachusetts (which only confirms my opinion that instead of writing our respective projects we should really be trawling estate sales) to Sotheby’s Masters Week sales netting $109.3 million, largely driven by the latest Botticelli ($45.4 million) which was framed as the market heir apparent to the ever problematic Salvator Mundi.
So scroll down for things you probably knew, some things you didn’t know, and a lot of things that will not live rent free in your mind.
You can expect to see a Guercino at every Old Masters drawing sale at this point, but this rather commanding ink drawing of Mars was just acquired by MFA Houston. I will say, in March 2022, Mars conjures up very different connotations given what’s going on in Ukraine. The study is related to a lost painting (engraving after it here) and went for almost triple its estimate: $275,000 (estimate $ 70,000 – $ 100,000).
Philosophy grandzaddy strikes again in Pieter van Mol’s Diogenes looking for an Honest Man from the collection of the Swiss banking heir, Jacqui E. Safra. The canvas set a new artist record at $5.8 m (estimate of $2-3 m)!
So call me cynical, but museums have been actively working to diversify their collections in the wave of institutional reckonings in the last couple years. Part and parcel of this movement has caused the market demand (and speculation) to skyrocket for works by Black artists, as well as representations of BIPOC. Perhaps this is why this drawing by Hendrik Pothoven, suggested to represent Guan Anthony Sideron, servant of Willem V, Prince of Orange, was acquired by the Rijksmuseum for nearly fifty times its lower estimate, going for $151,200 from an estimate of $3,000 – 4,000.
All these years in grad school means I’m contractually obligated to highlight eighteenth-century artists and this stunning Vallayer-Coster helped propel a new artist record for this still very much understudied and underappreciated artist! Sold for $1.8 m from an estimate of $1.5 – $2.5 m, the flower piece was originally commissioned by the Abbé Joseph Marie Terray (1715-1778), and exhibited in the Salon of 1775. (Speaking of women artists, there was also a new artist record set for Sophie Frémiet Rude, who trained in the Studio of Jacques-Louis David!)
This droll Erhard Schön drawing from the collection of the late Walter L. Strauss sold for 5.4 x times its upper estimate, going for $163,800 from an estimate of $20,000 – 30,000, setting a new artist record for the Nuremberg printmaker. No jest, pun intended.
And finally, this rare Chardin will be sold by Artcurial later this March with an estimate of €12m – €15m, although I expect that it might very well exceed the estimate!
Hear me out: $2.4 million is a hefty sum but compared to the Chardin above, this Adriaen Coorte is practically a bargain. Or since the painting was sold to a European public collection, one could just buy some Wanli ware, throw some Oishii berries on it, and feel riche until the berries start molding. In the age of digital, who doesn’t want to see some good old analogue iteration of memento mori? Estimate: $1,500,000 – 2,000,000, Lot sold: $2,440,000.
Some early powder horns offer rare insight in the role of personalized cartography during wars. But how could I just pass up the chance to spotlight this utterly bonkers artifact? Revolutionary Soldiers, they’re just like us. Estimate: $1,500 – 2,500, Lot sold: $2,016.
Villa Aurora, featuring the only mural painted by Caravaggio and a fresco by Guercino , had no bids for its initial asking price of €471 million (with bidding starting at €353 m). Auction round two is rescheduled to April 2022 and, get this, there is a whole 20% discount on the asking price, so it is definitely a bargain 4 some of U.
Make new friends and terrorize your enemies by carrying this snuff box around. Estimate: $400 – $600, Sold for $2,016.
Tiki mugs are problematic examples of cultural appropriation so instead of drinking tropical juices spritzed with rum out of vessels in the form of South Pacific deities and spirits, what if we decolonized Tiki drinks by using these Toby Jugs? Sold for $ 716.
Also, you know how some somms carry around specific burgundy glasses? (and if you didn’t, you know now). What if we all just carried around little silver wine tasters? The Times is dragging millennials for not consuming enough wine but maybe if we had more activity specific accessories and turned it into a lifestyle, we’d be boozing more (and yes, I’m speaking for all millennials). Estimate: $600 – $800, sold for $756.
Finally, you get a three for one validation with this painting. Shows that you’ve got great taste in early modern art, that you love fur, and that you enjoy golf. Who doesn’t want to hang out with someone like that? I mean, the true trifecta of a successful dating profile for sure. Swipe hard right baby. Estimate: $ 40,000 – 60,000, Sold: $ 214,200.
- A Van der Meulen drawing by Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie.
- Princess Anna Colonna Barbarini (originally deaccessioned by the Albright Knox Museum) and Luca Giordano’s Christ Among the Doctors (c. 1685) by the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
- Samuel van Hoogstraten’s portrait of Sir Norton Knatchbull by the Dordrechts Museum.
- Filippo Vitale’s Judith and Holoferne by the Musée Fabre in Montpellier.
- A painting by Frans de Momper by the Noordbrabants Museum.
- Painting of Christ by Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina by the Prado.
- A Louise Moillon still life by the Toledo Museum of Art.
- The Met purchased the Mantuan Roundel attributed to Gian Marco Cavalli for an astronomical sum of $23 million.
- Poussin’s Agony in the Garden gifted by Barbara and Jon Landau to the Met, in honor of Keith Christiansen who retired last year.
- A portrait by Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié for musée Cognacq-Jay.
Finally, the Rijksmusem has proposed to acquire Rembrandt’s The Standard Bearer from the Rothschild family for €175 million with €150 million coming from the State (i.e. tax dollars), and the rest covered by Vereniging Rembrandt (€15 million) and the Rijksmuseum (€10 million). If the purchase is finalized, the painting is slated to go on tour to all provinces before it is installed in the Gallery of Honour in the Rijksmuseum.
The purchase has been approved by the Tweede and the Eerst Kamer. However, it is worth pointing out that there is some controversy surrounding the purchase. The Dutch State must apparently transfer the €175 million to a trust located in the Cook Islands that is represented by a Swiss law firm. Understandably, this is raising questions as to whether the state is engaging in tax evasion and whether this use of tax dollars is prudent to begin with, particularly since Dutch cultural institutions have fired around 50 percent of self-employed freelancers during the pandemic…
- The Louvre will be partnering with Sotheby’s to further their WWII provenance research.
- The Museum of Fine Arts Boston restituted Salomon van Ruysdael’s View of Beverwijk, to the heirs of Ferenc Chorin.
- Dresden State Art Collections restituted a portrait by Nicolas de Largillière to the heirs of Jules Strauss. Largillière’s Madame de Parabère or Portrait of a Lady as Pomona was then sold at Sotheby’s in January $1.23 million. You can actually learn more about the story on this episode of one of my favorite art podcasts: The Art Angle.
- Citibanamex art collection is up for sale as Citigroup exits retail bank operations in Mexico.
- A once lost panel in an alterpiece by Bernhard Strigel sold for $4 million. The painting is thought to be part of an alterpiece in Memmingen and is related to companion piece at Louvre Abu Dhabi. Jury’s out as to who bought it.
- A painting bought by an art historian over 50 years ago may be an original by Anthony van Dyck.
- UK has placed a temporary export bar on a still life by Jan Davidsz. de Heem.
- A lost portrait by George Romney was discovered in Sussex.
- Ken Burns is planning on making a Leonardo da Vinci documentary.
- Banca Popolare di Vicenza which went bankrupt in 2017 is selling its art collection, including a Caravaggio, but according to Italian heritage laws, the paintings can’t leave the country.
- Older news but the Hamilton Aphrodite sold for $24.6 million, nearly 9 x its estimate last December.
- The 17th-century Hôtel Lambert was purchased by Xavier Niel and will be used as the site for his future cultural/art foundation.
- The National Gallery in London sent a 3D printed copy of Jan Gossaerts’s Adoration of the Kings to an exhibition at Winchester Cathedral. The “copy” is part of an “immersive” exhibition that also includes three “yurt-like pods” displaying digital reproductions. I mean…if this is the future, I am concerned!
- I could tell you to tune into online conferences but we’re so tired of Zoom at this point that I’m only highlighting two things:
- 1. Check out the very helpful Decorative Arts Trust’s “Events in the Field” calendar
- 2. Check out the online seminar series, Neoclassicism, Race, and Empire, run by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford.
- And finally, a brilliant Holbein show at the Morgan Library which completely dazzled me.
Here’s a glimpse into the art book collection of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from the Bonham’s sale.
J. Cabelle Ahn is a PhD Candidate in History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University where she specializes in eighteenth-century French graphic arts. She is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.