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    Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

    There was a new record for a medieval chess piece at auction today. A newly discovered warder attributed to the Lewis Chessmen workshop sold for £735,000 at Sotheby’s in London. The piece had been acquired for £5 in 1964 by an antiques dealer in Edinburgh and passed down in the same family by descent. It was stored away in his home before being inherited by his daughter, who believed it was special and perhaps imbued with some magical significance. The warder then passed onto the next generation of the family, who approached Sotheby’s to shed light on what was in fact an important historic artefact. Alexander Kader, Sotheby’s Co-Worldwide Head of European Sculpture & Works of Art, began a year-long study of the warder and deduced that the chessman could be one of the lost pieces of the Lewis group.

    The most famous chess pieces to have survived from the medieval world, the Lewis Chessmen were found in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The hoard comprised 93 objects, the majority carved from walrus ivory, which could make four complete sets of figure pieces, with the exception of one Knight and four Warders.

    Attributed to the Lewis Chessman Workshop
    Probably Norwegian, Trondheim, 13th Century



    Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

    A painting by the Irish artist Thomas Roberts features at Sotheby’s evening sale of Old Masters in London on July 3. A Wooded landscape in Powerscourt Demesne with a brace of fallow bucks and a doe is estimated at £200,000-300,000. Robert Carver’s Wooded Landscape with classical ruins will feature at Sotheby’s Old Master Day sale on July 4.



    Monday, July 1st, 2019

    A first edition of Gulliver’s Travels 1726-27 is among a number of Irish lots at Sotheby’s online sale of English Literature, Books, Childrens’ Books and Illustrations. The sale will include a 1654 Summary of Government Expenditure, Ireland, a copy of the Irish Proclamation estimated at £50,000-70,000 and lower half only copy of the Proclamation with an estimate of £8,000-12,000, paintings by Edyth Starkie, a pencil and watercolour caricature of George Moore by Max Beerbohm and various other lots. The sale opens for bidding today and runs until July 9.

    Gulliver’s Travels (£6,000-9,000).


    Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

    A newly discovered portrait of Olimpia Pamphilj by Diego Velazquez comes up at Sotheby’s Old Master sale in London on July 3. Lost for almost three centuries, this captivating portrait once formed part of the collection of Don Gaspar Mendez de Haro y Guzman, 7thMarques del Carpio. It was last recorded in 1724. Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj – sister-in-law, reputed lover and puppet master of Pope Innocent X – controlled all aspects of Vatican life and was known as Papessa. Her influence over the pontiff was well-known with one Cardinal, Alessandro Bichi, on the election of Innocent in October 1644, supposedly angrily declaring, “Gentlemen, we have just elected a female pope.”  

    Olimpia Pamphilj by Diego Velázquez UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £2,495,000

    Painted in 1649-50 during Velázquez’s second trip to Rome, the Portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj is estimated at £2 – 3 million. Sotheby’s say that this is one of the strongest Old Master sales ever staged with major works by the titans of British Art – Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, J.M.W. Turner – as well as leading Renaissance and Baroque painters Botticelli, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

    Sotheby’s to revert to private ownership

    Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

    Sotheby’s has entered into an agreement to be acquired by the art collector and media and telecom entrepreneur, Patrick Drahi after 31 years as a public company. Drahl is the ninth richest man in France.

    Sotheby’s ceo Tad Smith said in an announcement: “Our 275-year history has been marked by innovations that have not only changed Sotheby’s, but the wider industry along with it. And just over the past several years we have modernized and expanded both digitally and physically, and it’s clear that we are just getting started. Private ownership at this moment in Sotheby’s development would empower us to accelerate many of those growth initiatives and focus on long-term success. “

    Tad Smith

    Patrick Drahi is a knowledgeable businessman and a passionate collector who understands Sotheby’s and the markets we operate in, Smith added. He shares our brand vision for outstanding client service and has the patience to make that possible. There are no immediate changes to the business.

    Patrick Drahl is a French-Israeli businessman with French, Portuguese, and Israeli citizenship. He is founder and controlling member of the Netherlands based telecom group Altice and owns cable TV companies in Israel and the US.


    Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

    Impressionist and Modern masterpieces features at Sotheby’s evening and day sales in London on June 18 and 19 respectively. Helena Newman, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department commented: “From Monet to Modigliani, this season’s London sales bring together outstanding works by some of the world’s most beloved and sought-after artists”.

    Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1908 (£25-35 million)

    “Monet’s Nymphéas – an iconic image of his most celebrated subject – is at the same time radical and poetic, whilst Modigliani’s deeply arresting portrait of an unnamed youth unites the personal and the archetypal. These outstanding works have remained unseen for over half a century in their respective private collections and epitomise quality and freshness, both critical criteria for today’s global collectors. They will be offered alongside defining examples from landmark moments of Impressionism and Modern Art.”

    Amedeo Modigliani, Jeune homme assis, les mains croisées sur less genoux, 1918 (£16-24 million)


    Monday, May 20th, 2019

    An Irish painting by the American artist Rockwell Kent comes up at Sotheby’s American Art sale in New York on May 21. Craigbeefin dates to 1926-27 and is estimated at $70,000-100,000. In a catalogue note Sotheby’s say that the paintings Rockwell Kent created while in Ireland can be categorised in two groups: one, the detailed landscape and human infused compositions such as Annie Mc Ginley (private collection) and Dan Ward’s Stack (The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia); and two, the stark, modelled landscapes that focus more on abstract form–such as in the work of Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe–that are more a human reflection on the essence of the world around us. Craigbeefin represents the latter. It was exhibited in New York at Wildenstein & Company’s Important Exhibition of Paintings of Ireland and Elsewhere by Rockwell Kent (Paintings by Rockwell Kent), April-May 1927, and at the ACA Galleries in New York in 1989.

    Craigbeefin by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971)


    Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

    There was a world record for Monet at Sotheby’s in New York last night when Meules (Haystacks) sold for $110.7 million. This is the first work of Impressionist art to break the $100 million barrier and is 44 times the price achieved when Meules last sold at auction in 1986.

    The scene at the auction room

    A total of 13 works of Impressionism achieved $160 million – nearly half of the auction total of $333.2 million. Another highlight was Gustave Caillebotte’s La Rue Halévy, vue du sixième étage from 1878, which well-exceeded its $8 million high estimate to sell for $13.9 million.

    Helena Newman, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Impressionist & Modern Art, said: “Tonight we saw a great depth of impassioned bidding from around the globe, fueled by works long-cherished in private collections.  Nearly two-thirds of the lots offered tonight had never before appeared at auction, and the market responded enthusiastically – helping us to achieve our highest total since 2015, and our second consecutive evening sale with a sell-through rate over 90%. With the record-breaking Monet leading the charge, the Impressionist and Modern market is as strong as it has ever been in my more than 30 years in this business.”

    (See posts on for April 16 and May 7, 2019)


    Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

    With the May art sales in New York fast approaching Christie’s and Sotheby’s are gearing up for an important selling season.  On May 13 Christie’s will offer a dedicated selection of 11 works from Princess Titi von Furstenberg, who died in 2006, in its evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art.The collection of more than 30 artworks ranges from Pablo Picasso to Mark Rothko, Andre Derain and Lucio Fontana.  Further lots will be offered in the day sale on May 14, the Post War and Contemporary Art sale on May 16 and in a Paris sale of African Art next October.  Born in Houston in 1919 Titi von Furstenberg’s father was Robert Lee Blaffer, founder of the company now known as Exxon Mobile.  Her maternal grandfather William Thomas Campbell was among the founders of Texas Oil, now known as Texaco. Amadeo Modigliani’s limestone sculpture Tete carved c1911-12 in the same sale is estimated at $30-40 million. This is one of the 26 pieces that defined his sculptural output and one of the last in private hands. Modigliani’s oil portrait of his muse Lunia Czechowska from the collection of Drue Heinz (1915-2018), the English born wife of Jack Heinz of the food empire, is in the sale as is a 1939 work by Balthus, Therese sur une banquette estimated at $12-18 million.  Therese was just 14 when she posed for this piece, one of ten portraits in which she featured reading or doing nothing but dreaming all painted between 1936 and 1939.One of the finest examples of Monet’s series known as Haystacks will come up at Sotheby’s evening sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on May 14.  The series if famous for the way in which the artist repeated the same subject to show the effects of different light and atmosphere at different times of the day, across the seasons and in different weather.  Meules from 1890 is one of only eight from the series of 25 works remaining in private hands. Sotheby’s expected it to sell for more than $55 million.This sale features important works by Gustave Caillebotte, Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia and Marc Chagall.The Contemporary Art evening auction on May 16 will be highlighted by Mark Rothko’s Untitled 1960 from the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This sale is further distinguished by Francis Bacon’s Study for a Head from 1952 and by the same artist’s Study for a Portrait, 1981, the last of his famous portraits of his love and muse George Dyer.

    Amadeo Modigliani – Lunia Czechowska from the collection of Drue Heinz at Christie’s. UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR $25,245,000

    Francis Bacon – Study for a Portrait 1981 at Sotheby’s. UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR $14.5 MILLION


    Friday, May 3rd, 2019

    A 1985 oil on canvas by Sean Scully comes up at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art day auction in New York on May 17. Linosa is estimated at $300,000-400,000. It was exhibited at the Princeton show A Decade of Visual Arts at Princeton Art Faculty 1975-1985.

    Sean Scully – Linosa