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    Monday, March 19th, 2018

    Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) – Portrait of a bearded Venetian nobleman, bust length

    A rare portrait by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) will spearhead Sotheby’s Old Masters sale in London on July 4. Unseen on the market for 60 years, this remarkable depiction of a Venetian Nobleman was almost certainly cherished by the artist who kept it until his death in 1640. Acquired by the great Dutch collector Hans Wetzlar in the early 1950’s it has remained in the possession of his descendants ever since.

    Painter, designer, print-maker, sculptor, architect, diplomat, peace-treaty broker, at the helm of the largest studio of his time, Rubens was the first great artist-collector in Northern Europe and the fact that he almost certainly owned the present portrait until his death is testament to its importance.

    George Gordon, Worldwide Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Department, said: “Rubens is known as the “Prince of the painters” and his legacy is far reaching. His timeless modernity and immediacy is evident in this painting which encapsulates several strands of his creative, emotional and intellectual life. With its bravura brushwork which shows no hint of hesitancy, this is a portrait of a man as real to us as he was in the artist’s mind. Almost 400 years after being created, this is a painting that gives the viewer immense pleasure, and one in which we can feel Rubens’ own joy in creating it.”

    Painted in the 1620’s this is one of only a few portraits by the artist to come on the market in recent years. It is estimated in the region of £3 million.


    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    James Gillray – Consequences of a successful French Invasion

    Irish history manifests itself in many forms among them political cartoons. The political cartoon collection of Jeffrey Archer which Sotheby’s will offer in London on March 14 includes a James Gillray cartoon titled:  ‘Consequences of a successful French invasion .. or… we fly on the wings of the wind to save the Irish catholics from persecution”.

    It relates to the aftermath of the French Revolution, during which the Catholic church as a large landowner suffered greatly.  Many priests were executed or deported during The Terror,  churches and religious images were destroyed. By early 1798, the leaders of the French Directory had secured the occupation of Switzerland, Piedmont and the Papal States. In response to fear of an impending invasion in Britain the Scottish lawyer and historian Sir John Dalrymple (1726-1810) approached James Gillray to produce a series of loyalist, anti-Jacobin prints that ‘might rouse all the People to an active Union against that Invasion. This cartoon represents what the French might do to the catholics of England and Ireland.  It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.


    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (2009), oil on canvas sold for £4.6 million.

    Peter Doig’s Toronto painting – The Architect’s Home in the Ravine – was the top lot at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in London tonight.  It made £14.4 million.

    A packed London saleroom witnessed intense bidding on the phones for Rudolf Stingel’s monumental mountainscape Untited (2009).  This theatrical view of the Tyrolean Alps near Merano, Italy sold for £4.6 million. Christopher Wool’s  Untitled soared over its high estimate to reach £10.4 million, and a trio of abstract works by Gerhard Richter achieved a combined total of £21.3 million.

    The evening sale realised a total of £109,292,700.

    (See posts on for February 16, 2018 and February 11, 2016)


    Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

    Andy Warhol – Six Self-Portraits  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £22.6 MILLION

    Stellar names in global contemporary art will feature at sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London next week.  Andy Warhol’s Six Self Portraits, completed just months before his sudden death in 1987, will lead Christie’s sale on March 6. Jackson Pollock’s Number 21, 1950 has an estimate of £10-15 million and among the other highlights are works by Basquiat, Mapplethorpe and Lucio Fontana.

    Sotheby’s Contemporary sale on March 7 is headlined by Peter Doig’s The Architect’s Home in the Ravine.  The sale spans the postwar era, Pop art and the pictures generation and features outstanding works by Rudolf Stingel, Bawquiat, Christopher Wool, Hurvin Anderson and Laura Owens.  A maquette by Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North marks the 20th anniversary of the sculpture’s unveiling at Gateshead in the UK.


    Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

    Picasso’s muse leads sale.

    Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter from 1937 was the top lot at Sotheby’s  sale of Impressionist & Modern and Surrealist Art in London tonight.  It sold for £49.8 million.

    The sale totalled £136,001,500 across thirty-six lots. 64% of the lots sold for prices over their pre-sale high-estimates, with an average lot value of £3.8m.

    Painted just months after Guernica and his Weeping Women, this  portrait appeared at auction for the first time. The work was used as a means of exploring his feelings for Marie-Thérèse and his new lover Dora Maar, who emerges in the shadow. There is a conscious blurring of the two styles inspired by the two muses, reaching its pinnacle in the silhouetted ‘other’ that emerges from behind the main subject.

    Alberto Giacometti’s chandelier sold for £7.6 million, Picasso’s Matador made £16.5 million and Bateaux à Collioure  by Andre Derain made £10.9 million.  There were bidders from 35 countries with strong activity from Asia, Russia the US and the UK.

    (See posts on for January 14, January 29, February 6 and February 27, 2018)


    Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

    Umberto Boccioni Testa + luce + ambiente  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £9.7 MILLION

    The title of this seminal Futurist work by Umberto Boccioni Testa + luce + ambiente translates as head + light + atmosphere. It was painted in 1912, the year the Futurists issued a call to arms for artists celebrating the modern world in a radical way. The short lived and highly influential movement demanded a break with the past centred on a desire to re-enter life through a focus on the speed, noise, machinery and violence of the new century.

    This work centres the human figure in a direct shaft of light, resulting in the fusion of form and atmosphere. Paintings by Boccioni – a leading figure in the Italian Futurists alongside Severini, Balla and Marinetti – are very rare. This one was made just four years before his death at 33 in the First World War. It comes to auction for the first time at Sotheby‘s Impressionist and Modern evening sale in London on February 28 estimated at £5.5-7.5 million.

    (See post on for February 6, 2018)


    Friday, February 16th, 2018

    Peter Doig, The Architect’s Home in the Ravine (1991

    The Architect’s home in the Ravine by Britain’s most expensive living artist Peter Doig will headline Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening auction in London on March 7.  Painted in 1991 and estimated at £14-18 million it last changed hands at Christie’s in London two years ago when it sold for £11,282,500.   In 1991, just a year after graduating from his Master’s degree at Chelsea, Doig was awarded the highly prestigious Whitechapel Artist’s award.

    This was  one of only four works the artist chose to be included in the subsequent show at the Whitechapel Gallery. Others include Iron Hill (1991) which became the first work by the artist to sell for over £1 million at Sotheby’s auction in 2006, and Rosedale (1991) which established a new $28.8 million auction record for any living British artist last year.   The Architect’s Home in the Ravine refers to a building remembered from the artist’s childhood in Canada – the home of Eberhard Zeidler, which is situated in the wealthy Toronto suburb of Rosedale.

    Three of the four highest prices for the artist at auction have been set in the past 12 months.

    (See post on for February 11, 2016)


    Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

    Pablo Picasso – Le Matador  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £16.5 MILLION

    Picasso’s Le Matador will make its auction debut at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale in London on February 28.  Monumental in scale and painted in vivid colours Le Matador is the culmination of a life-long obsession of Picasso’s that remained one of the most important themes throughout his career.

    The painting is a brilliant display of the virtuosity with which the artist combined the complex elements that had shaped his life and art and stands as a defiant tribute to the heroic figure of the matador – embodying the artist’s own Andalusian machismo as the master of modern art takes centre-stage in the arena.

    Picasso had begun to feel that his time on this earth was running out, and so engaged in constant conversation with the great masters before him – Goya, Velasquez and Delacroix – following the traditions they had set in order to reinvent them and make a lasting mark. Painted in October 1970 it is estimated at £14-18 million.

    Helena Newman, Global Co-Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department & Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said:   ‘This powerful portrait exemplifies Picasso’s creative force in his final years and represents the culmination of a life-long obsession. Through the subject of the bullfight, Picasso explores the theme of life and death, creation and destruction, earth and sun, casting himself at the centre stage of the spectacle. We are thrilled to be presenting two prime examples of works by Picasso at his very best in one sale – Le Matador and Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) –  both from key periods of the artist’s career.’ 


    Monday, January 29th, 2018

    Alberto Giacometti – Lustre avec femme, homme et oiseau  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £7.6 MILLION

    A dramatic chandelier by Alberto Giacometti comes up at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale on February 28.  Estimated at £6-8 million Lustre avec femme, homme et oiseau  brings together the artist’s most celebrated figures, Walking Man and Standing Woman.  It is one of only three casts by Giacometti for select patrons  and a unique instance where all of the key motifs of the artist’s career appear in a single work.

    The chandelier encapsulates the existential anxiety of the post-war period whilst casting magical shadows that animate Giacometti’s heightened reality. It is coming to auction for the first time.

    Thomas Bompard of Sotheby’s said:  “This beautiful chandelier by Alberto Giacometti is the tangible coming together of visual arts, decoration and theatre. Despite a natural tendency for introversion, Giacometti became a figurehead of existentialism – finding his place at the centre of the avant-garde scene of artists and intellectuals in Paris. He was sought after by patrons, dealers and fellow artists, collaborating with the likes of modernist playwright Samuel Beckett to capture the fragile but powerful beauty of what hadn’t been destroyed by the Second World War. This is much more than a chandelier: it is a beacon of universal symbolism, of hope and humanism.”


    Sunday, January 14th, 2018

    Pablo Picasso
    Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter)

    A 1937 portrait of Picasso’s powerful muse Marie-Therese is to be the highlight of Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art evening sale in London on February 28.  Picasso’s Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) brings to a climax a turbulent and highly charged year. Guernica was created in 1937, and in the final month of that year he painted this intense image of his golden muse Marie-Thérèse Walter.

    The painting Picasso’s evolving relationship with his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, to whom he was ostensibly still devoted at the time, and the increasingly dominant presence of his new lover Dora Maar. Indeed, the work appears to have been used as a means for exploring his feelings for the two women. There is a conscious blurring of the two styles inspired by the two muses, reaching its pinnacle in the silhouetted ‘other’ that emerges from behind the main subject. Whether it represents Maar or indeed a self-portrait, the implication is that of duality and conflict. Picasso is quoted: ‘It must be painful for a girl to see in a painting that she is on the way out’.