LONDON - Sotheby’s summer sales of Old Masters in London this week realised a combined total of £45,220,480 ($91,300,455 /ˆ66,981,321) - up 42% on the same week last year (when the total was £31,814,320).
Alex Bell, Co-chairman Worldwide of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings department, said: “This was an exciting week, with great pictures being well-received by a buoyant market. New buyers were out in force, competing at all levels with established collectors. The great event of the week here was sale of Velázquez’s beautiful portrait of Saint Rufina to the Focus-Abengoa Foundation of Seville – the applause and excitement in the saleroom as the hammer fell was extraordinary. We are all thrilled that this depiction of Seville’s patron saint will now have a permanent home in the artist’s birthplace.”
Facts and figures for the week:
• Diego Velázquez’s Saint Rufina sold for £8,420,000 ($17,003,348/ˆ12,472,564), setting a new world auction record for the artist, and also becoming the most expensive Old Master Painting by a Spanish artist ever sold at auction. The painting was bought by the Focus-Abengoa Foundation from Seville, the painter’s birthplace. The Foundation’s purchase was the culmination of a momentous fund-raising effort: when the people of Seville learned that Sotheby’s was to sell Velázquez’s Santa Rufina, there was a rush to find a buyer who would secure the painting for the city. The Town Hall launched an appeal, and an association (“Velázquez for Seville”) was established to champion the cause, culminating in the opening of an account into which anyone could contribute towards the acquisition of this image of the patron saint of Seville. The Duchess of Alba and Berwick was appointed honorary president of the association and appealed to the public, businesses and institutions to come forward with contributions. Posters were distributed throughout the city and awnings hung on buildings outside the Town Hall. The excitement even led to the projection of a huge image of the picture onto the pitch of the Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium in Seville during the match between Atletico Sevilla and Burgos.
• A remarkable group of Turner watercolours from the collection of Guy and Myriam Ullens realized a combined total of £10,767,200. Spanning 44 years of Turner’s career, the 14 works offered represented the finest group of watercolours by the artist to have come to the market since the 1920s. The highest price among them was for a magnificent, loosely drawn view of Lungernsee, which made £3,604,000 ($7,277,918) – the second highest price for a British watercolour at auction after The Blue Rigi. Also hotly contested was Venice: Looking towards the Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, with a storm approaching, which made £2,988,000 ($6,033,967) against an estimate of just £800,000- £1,200,000.
• The definitive portrait of Jean Jacques Rousseau, a pastel of 1764 by Maurice Quentin de la Tour, sold to the Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Montmorency in France. Drawn in 1764, the work was presented by the artist to the great philosopher, then living in exile in Switzerland, as a mark of respect. It made or £144,000 ($290,794).
• High percentage of lots sold. Sotheby’s Evening sale was extremely successful in terms of lots finding buyers, with 76.8% of the lots offered finding buyers.
• New Buyers. 8% of the buyers in the Old Master Paintings evening sale were first-time purchasers at Sotheby’s. 10% of Buyers in the Old Master Paintings day sale were first-time purchasers at Sotheby’s 14% of Buyers in the Old Master drawings sale were first-time purchasers at Sotheby’s.
• Exceeding estimates - 68% of lots sold in the Old Master Paintings evening sale made over top estimate. 54% of lots sold in the Old Master Paintings day sale made over top estimate. 50% of lots sold in the Old Master Drawings sale made over top estimate.
• Auction records were broken for a number of artists including Velázquez, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Luca Cambiaso and Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne
• 9 works sold for over £1 million
• 16 works sold over $1 million.