Having attracted media attention across the world, the immaculately restored Vickers Supermarine Spitfire P9347 sold for £3,106,500, establishing a new world record price for any Spitfire at auction. One of only two restored Mk.1 models still flying, the historic plane inspired competitive bidding, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £1,500,00–2,500,000, and proving to be a highlight of The Exceptional Sale 2015 at Christie’s King’s Street HQ in London. (See our special documentary feature on Spitfire P9347)
Part of a generous gift from American philanthropist and art collector Thomas Kaplan, Spitfire P9347 was sold to benefit the RAF Benevolent Fund, leading wildlife conservation charity Panthera, WildCRU and Stop Ivory. A second model, Spitfire N3200, also belonging to Thomas Kaplan, was gifted to the Imperial War Museum Duxford on 9 July, and was welcomed by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (see video below).
Commenting on the sale, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Battle of France, Kaplan said, ‘Today’s events are, more than anything else, concrete gestures of gratitude and remembrance for those who prevailed in one of the most pivotal battles in modern history… it is with full hearts that we congratulate the buyers at the auction, as well as the Imperial War Museum, for their new acquisitions.’
Nic McElhatton, Chairman of Christie’s South Kensington added, ‘Bringing this iconic and historic aircraft to auction has captivated collectors and enthusiasts around the world. It has been an extraordinary project for Christie’s to work on, and we have all been in awe of Thomas Kaplan’s incredible generosity.’
Other highlights from the sale included A Luba female figure for a bowstand, which sold for £6,130,500, easily surpassing its pre-sale estimate of £1,500,000-2,500,000 and setting both a new world record for the price for a Luba figure at auction, and the second highest price for an African work of art. An exceptional piece from antiquity, a Roman marble of an athlete sold for £1,082,500, whilst the Cremorne Candelabra (below) found a buyer at £902,500, establishing a new world record price for a pair of English silver candelabra at auction.
The Exceptional Sale (full sale results can be viewed here) formed part of Classic Beauty: Celebrating the Contemporary Art of the Past, a group of auctions celebrating excellence and technical brilliance, which ran at Christie’s from 7 to 10 July. Forming the third week of Christie’s eagerly anticipated summer auctions, the sales featured works by many of the most revered artists and craftsmen in history, whose ground breaking and innovative works have stood the test of time. To date, the week’s sales have realised a combined total of £48,451,788, with 14 works finding buyers for over £1 million.
Also on the 9 July, Taste of the Royal Court: Important French Furniture and Works of Art from a Private Collection realised £6,676,250 (full results can be viewed here). The star of the sale was Marie Antoinette’s exquisite chair (above), which sold for £1,762,500, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £300,000-500,000 to set a new world record price for an 18th century chair at auction. Once used to furnish one of her most private retreats, the Pavillon Belvédère in the Jardin Anglais of the Petit Trianon, it is the only surviving armchair from the most expensive suite made for the French Queen.
Commenting on the sale, Will Strafford, Senior International Specialist, and Amelia Walker, Head of sale, agreed, ‘The results are a testament to the discerning and refined taste of the collector whose focus on rare furniture and works of art of the highest quality, superlative craftsmanship and with distinguished provenance was reflected in fierce competition in the saleroom for pieces such as the extraordinary Hamilton Palace agate ewer and basin (below).’
On the same evening, Christie’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale realised £18,993,500 (see full results), with bidders from 31 countries across four continents reflecting the exceptional selection of works presented, which placed an emphasis on rarity, importance and provenance. The sale was led by A coastal landscape with fisherfolk, the most important oil by Richard Parkes Bonington to come to market in a generation. Sold for £2,490,500, the work established a new world record price for the artist at auction.
Additional highlights of the sale included a previously unrecorded view of Venice by Francesco Guardi (above), sold for £1,986,500, and El Greco’s striking Christ on the Cross. Exceeding its estimate to sell for £2,434,500, the latter had been passed to its owners by descent since 1772. A new world record auction price was established for The Four Seasons by Sebastian Vranex, which sold for £1,650,500.
Commenting on Classic Beauty: Celebrating the Contemporary Art of the Past, Henry Pettifer, International Director, Head of Old Master & British Paintings Christie London, said, ‘This week of sales presents opportunities for new and established collectors at different price levels.’
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