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    Henri Matisse’s Les Pivoines made $19,122,500. (Click on image to enlarge).

    A Fauve Still Life by Henri Matisse and a re-discovered Cezanne study for The Card Players were the top lots at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale in New York on May 1.  The carefully edited sale brought in $117,086,000.  There were 31 works on offer, two sold for over $15 million, seven for over $5 million and 21 for over $1 million. The auction was 90 per cent  sold by lot and 96 per cent sold by value.

    Picasso’s Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter) made $9,882,500. (Click on image to enlarge).

    Cézanne’s Joueur de cartes (Card Player), a rare watercolor study that had been assumed lost by art historians until it re-emerged from a private collection in Texas earlier this year sold for $19,122,500. Henri Matisse’s Les Pivoines soared above its pre-sale estimate of $8-12 million to match the price of the Cézanne study.  It went to a bidder on the phone. Painted in 1907 in Collioure, the painting is emblematic of the canvases Matisse and his protégé André Derain first began producing in 1905 as a bold exploration of form and color. Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter), Picasso’s lovingly painted portrait of the young blonde muse who inspired his great 1932 series of masterpiece works, far exceeded its estimate of $5-7 million to realize $9,882,500.  Reclining figure from 1956 by Henry Moore realized $5,010,500 and Edgar Degas’s Grande arabesque, deuxième temps, a bronze of the artist’s signature dancer, exceeded its estimate of $500,000-700,000 to realize $1,022,500.

    Marc Porter, Chairman, Christie’s Americas, commented: “This was a carefully edited sale that brought together collecting options at the highest level of market while hitting the market “sweet spot” of mid-priced works by blue-chip artists like Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Moore. As a result, we saw our strongest sell-through percentages for this category in New York since 2006, which is a testament to the market-savvy of our Impressionist and Modern Art team. We are particularly pleased with the results achieved for Cézanne’s study for “Card Players” and for our cover lot, Matisse’s “Les Pivoines (The Peonies)”, which proved to be the perfect ode to spring in New York.”

    (See post on for March 27, 2012)

    The sales continue at Sotheby’s later today (at 7 p.m. in New York) where the main focus of attention is Edvard Munch’s  “The Scream.”  It is reckoned that this art auction fortnight in New York could bring in as much as $1.5 billion.

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