After five days of live auctions, Classic Week (25-29 October) in New York achieved a total of $59.9 million. The series of nine sales, which spanned Antiquities, Decorative Arts, Old Master Paintings and European Art, drew bidders from 31 countries across 5 continents, and saw artist records established for William Adolphe Bouguereau, Anne-Louis Girodet and Jan de Beer.
The top lot of Classic Week was a Roman marble statue of the Emperor Hadrian, who reigned from 117-138 A.D. Standing more than two metres high, the splendid statue — with detail so fine that even a small crease on the Roman emperor’s left earlobe is visible — achieved $5,950,000.
Previously in the collection of Cobham Hall in Kent, the statue was later acquired by British art collector Christian Levett at Christie’s in New York in 2008, after which it was the star attraction of the Mougins Museum’s opening in June 2011.
The series opened on 25 October with Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana, which realised $3,367,250. Notable results included John Nash’s 1994 Nobel Prize, which sold for $735,000, and a first-edition, offprint issue of the mathematician’s doctoral thesis, formulating the theory of non-cooperative games. Penned at Princeton in 1951, the edition cruised past its high estimate of $5,000 before selling for $137,500.
On 28 October, European Art Part I was led by John William Waterhouse’s The Soul of the Rose, executed in 1908, when the artist was in his creative maturity. The painting realised $4,695,000 (including buyer’s premium) in a sale that totalled $17,545,000.
Moments later, William Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1889 Chansons de printemps, inspired by themes of classical antiquity, sold for $3,615,000, setting a new world auction record for the artist.
Later that morning, a dedicated sale of ancient sculpture from the Pestalozzi Collection realised $3,040,375, selling 96 per cent by value and 93 per cent by lot. The group was led by a magnificent Roman Marble Portrait Head of Alexander the Great, dating to circa late 2nd/early 3rd century AD ($591,000).
The following day, the The Exceptional Sale achieved $9,340,750. In addition to the Hadrian statue, highlights included Miles Davis’s ‘Moon and Stars’ trumpet, which soared past its high estimate of £100,000 before realising $275,000; and an extraordinary royal Spanish commode supplied to King Carlos II for the ‘Gabinetes de Maderas Finas de Indias’ in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Attributed to the cabinet-maker José Canops, active at the Royal Spanish workshops in Madrid from 1759, this extraordinary brass-inlaid and ormulu-mounted tulipwood commode sold for $447,000, soaring past its high estimate of $150,000.
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The Old Masters Paintings and Sculpture sale realised $13,062,750, and set several new world auction records.
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson’s Les Adieux de Coriolan à sa famille fetched $2,655,000, more than 17 times its high estimate, while the great Antwerp mannerist Jan de Beer’s Annunciation soared past its high estimate of £300,000 before selling for $1,215,000. Dated to around 1515, the oil on panel, which has been copied by other artists in no fewer than 14 other instances, depicts the moment the archangel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary (set inside a Gothic church).
Elsewhere, there were notable results for David Tenier’s II’s An Alchemist in His Workshop, which sold for $699,000, nearly double its high estimate; and an Egyptian painted wood anthropoid coffin made for a man named Pa-di-tu-Amun, dated to the Third Intermediate Period (945-889 BC). The coffin, one of the finest examples to ever appear at auction, sold for $3,255,000.