The inaugural Erotic: Passion & Desire sale at Sotheby’s in London – featuring over 100 lots of fine art, photography, sculpture and design – brought a total of £5,297,000 over a combined pre-sale estimate of £3.1-4.6 million. The top lots were two sculptural masterpieces which established auction records. In an intense bidding battle, collectors clamoured to acquire Jacques Loysel’s La Grande Nevrose, considered to be the sculptor’s definitive masterwork. This sensual marble, retained by Loysel in his Paris atelier until his death in 1925 and not seen on the market since, made £1,868,750. The estimate was £120,000-180,000.
A rare surviving work by Sarah Bernhardt – a rediscovered marble relief of Ophelia – sparked frenzied bidding, driving the final sale price to £308,750, six times its pre-sale low estimate (£50,000-70,000). The highest price for a contemporary sculpture in the sale was achieved when Antony Gormley’s Pole II which made £320,750. A Roman marble group of two lovers c1st-2nd centuries AD made £236,750. Further highlights included works on paper by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, who forged a new path in fearless depictions of the naked figure. Schiele’s Akt (Nude) made £224,750 and Klimt’s pencil drawing Half-nude reclining to the right made £175,000.