Last week’s Old Master sales in London provedonce again, that good Old Masters in an excellent state of preservation and fresh to the market make very solid prices.
The pick of the bunch were definitely at Christie’s where the evening sale made £45M as opposed to Sotheby’s comparatively paltry £17.2M. In fact, the tiny pen and ink study of the Head of a Bear by Leonardo da Vinci, which sold at Christies for £8.857M made half the whole of the Sotheby’s evening sale on it’s own. My stand-out lots at Christie’s were first the exquisite Music Lesson by Frans van Mieris, on panel made out from a small arched-top painting to a larger rectangle by the artist himself, which, at £3.5M indicated that no-one was put off by the alteration to its shape. Second was the magnificent large View of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto, Canaletto’s nephew, which took £10.575M. My third choice was the very rare canvas of Saint Andrew by the French follower of Caravaggio, Georges de la Tour. This made a very respectable £4M. I don’t know how many paintings by this rare master are still in private hands, but it will be a tiny number. The only disappointment to my mind was the beautiful Lawrence portrait of Richard Meade, which sold for £598K, within the estimate but not a true reflection of its worth.
Sotheby’s was not such a rosy picture, with 21of the 50 paintings not finding a buyer on the night. The large Turner sea piece of 1808 made £4.79M with premiums, but had recently been on the market for £8M. The Willem Kalf still life made £1.46M despite being in rather worn condition.
One of my particular favourites was the luscious View of Port Louis in Mauritius, by William Hodges, R.A. in oil on paper. Hodges is famous for accompanying Captain Cook to the South Pacific and painted the only portrait of him from life. This canvas made a healthy £189,000.