What sold well this week
Harry Seymour continues his round-up of highlights from the last seven days of Christie’s sales. This week, 2-9 May
Estimate: £1,500-2,500 / sold for £40,000 online
This bracelet, made up of six cabochon stones set between gold links, was one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourites. It was given to her by her husband Denis in the late 1960s, and she wore it almost daily while British Prime Minister, and for the rest of her life. ‘The success of this lot illustrates the overwhelming appeal of strong provenance,’ says specialist Adrian Hume Sayer, referencing the many photographs in which Mrs. Thatcher can be seen wearing the bracelet. ‘It’s unquestionably that tangible link with so many important moments in 20th-century British politics that led to this fantastic result.’ The bracelet sold for more than 26 times its low estimate.
Estimate: £6,000-8,000 / sold for £515,250 in London
Made in Safavid Iran during the first quarter of the 16th century, this paper folio contains columns of poetry by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami, as well as painted miniatures heightened with gold leaf. ‘We had 10 bidders overall, and a few particularly determined clients in the saleroom who had fallen in love with the work,’ explains specialist Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam. But why was one of them willing to pay more than 85 times the low estimate for it? ‘It’s jewel-like, and it’s a great subject and in very good condition,’ says the specialist. ‘The result shows that Persian works on paper remain highly collectible.’
Estimate: $1,500-2,500 / sold for $7,500 online
This ladies’ Rolex wristwatch was made in Switzerland around 1971. ‘There is a real cult following for Mickey Mouse Rolexes,’ explains Christie’s specialist Rich Lopez. ‘We already sold one last year that did very well [it fetched $11,875, against a low estimate of $2,000], so it seems the market for them is still rising.’
Estimate: $6,000-8,000 / sold for $12,500 online
Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig, best known for his macabre photographs of New York crime scenes. This photograph from around 1955, offered in a dedicated auction last week, did well for a number of reasons, says specialist Rebecca Jones. ‘It was completely fresh to market, unpublished, and its light-hearted spirit gives it wide appeal,’ she says. ‘It was also the poster image for the sale’s marketing campaign, so it got that little bit of extra exposure!’
Estimate: HK$30,000-50,000 / sold for HK$187,500 online
This platinum and gold ring, set with 41 diamonds and 49 rubies, was made by Van Cleef & Arpels using a patented technique known as ‘mystery setting’. It involves each gem being inserted onto gold rails less than two-tenths of a millimetre thick to make them appear as if freestanding. ‘Mystery-set jewels by Van Cleef & Arpels always attract attention because of their rarity and intricacy,’ explains specialist Monica Harrison. ‘That’s what makes this ring so collectible and explains why it sold for more than six times its low estimate.’
Highlights from previous weeks below
Estimate: $80,000-120,000 / sold for $855,000 in New York
Around 2,300 years ago, this mottled red jasper scaraboid was engraved with an image of the ancient Greek warrior Perseus tiptoeing towards his prey, the Gorgon Medusa. It would have originally adorned the finger of a Greek citizen and been stamped into wax to officiate documents (before signatures existed). It was one of 40 engraved gems from the collection of the Italian dealer G. Sangiorgi, which was sold 100 per cent by lot and value last week in New York. It was a sale many buyers felt compelled to attend in person: ‘There were no online bidders, which is unusual for this category,’ reveals specialist G. Max Bernheimer, who describes this scaraboid as ‘perhaps the finest single Classical study of Perseus and one of the best gems of the period.’ It might explain why five bidders battled it out for a gem that finally sold for more than 10 times its low estimate.
Estimate: £50,000-70,000 / sold for £262,500 in London
After learning his trade as an engraver at the American Banknote Company, Frederick Arthur Bridgman moved to Paris where he worked with the leading Orientalist painter Jean Léon Gérôme. By 1872 he was travelling to Algeria, often with his violin, where he was inspired to paint this picture of two young women strumming a lute and banging a doombeg. ‘It encapsulates the attractive traits of Orientalism,’ says specialist Arne Everwijn of the picture. ‘It’s colourful, it’s about beauty and Middle Eastern custom and dress.’ The bidding turned into a contest between Europe and the Middle East, with the work eventually selling for more than five times its low estimate.
Estimate: $600,000-800,000 / sold for £3,895,000 in London
‘Not only were they rare,’ says Rugs & Carpets specialist Louise Broadhurst of this pair of important Safavid silk and metal-thread ‘Polonaise’ carpets, ‘their condition for this particular group was extraordinary’. The carpets, which had been together for 400 years — belonging variously to the King of Poland and the Head of the Holy Roman Emperor — were among the stars of a highly successful Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets auction in London. Their long journey will now continue along different paths, however — the first to be offered (above left) sold to a private buyer, setting a new world auction record for a ‘Polonaise’ carpet at £3,895,000, nearly five times its high estimate; the second (above right) was acquired by a European institution for £3,724,750. ‘I was sad to say goodbye to them,’ admits Broadhurst.
Estimate: $50,000-70,000 / sold for $759,000 in New York
‘This rare chalcedony amulet from the Ptolemaic Period (664-30 BC) is unparalleled in Egyptian art,’ says antiquities specialist Hannah Solomon. ‘It garnered particular interest at auction, firstly because it was once owned by Norbert Schimmel, one of the 20th century’s most prominent collectors of ancient art, and secondly because of its custom-made Harry Winston gold setting, which makes it wearable as a brooch.’ The price soared as two telephone bidders competed for the piece, before it was finally won at more than 15 times its low estimate.
Estimate: €2,000-3,000 / sold for €12,500
Elvira Jansen, from Christie’s Dutch office, says that the Post-War and Contemporary Art auction in Amsterdam this week attracted more than 500 bidders. She selects Edouard Léon Théodore Mesens’ La Noctambule (The Night Prowler) as a standout among a slew of strong results: ‘As well as being an early work, and very cute, it has the same name as a piece by the artist in the Tate collections, while some wonderful old labels on the reverse provide brilliant provenance.’ The assemblage went for more than six times it low estimate.
Estimate: $40,000-60,000 / sold for $106,250 in New York
Richard Lloyd, Head of Prints & Multiples at Christie’s, explains that each time Warhol made a run of prints, there would be one trial proof for colour testing. ‘These rare editions can cause spirited bidding in the saleroom,’ he says. This signed and published print from 1985 did just that, selling for more than double its low estimate and setting a new auction record for any Warhol print of the famous volcano.
Estimate: $800-1,200 / sold for $13,750 online
‘These unusual bracelets were consigned from the Mexican silver jewellery collection of Stuart and Cindy Tietze-Hodosh, which is one one of the largest privately owned collections in the world,’ explains specialist Edward Klopfer. ‘They’re a very early and evocative example of Antonio Pineda’s jewellery designs. This, coupled with their amazing size and style, attracted bidders from California, Belgium and even the Philippines.’ They sold for over 17 times their low estimate.
Estimate: £1,000-1,5000 / sold for £3,430 in London
Asked why he thought these five magnums of vintage Moët et Chandon champagne sold for over three times their low estimate, Christie’s wine specialist Noah May had a simple answer: condition. ‘As with all old wines — and especially mature champagne, which is popular at the moment — condition, storage and provenance are vitally important,’ he says. ‘These five magnums come from a well-maintained cellar owned by a retired member of the British Army who is known in the wine trade. Their fantastic colour and clarity communicated to our bidders the care taken to ensure their quality.’
Estimate: $200,000-300,000 / sold for $507,000 in New York
This coloured lithograph and woodcut print was made by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1895. ‘Condition can be a major driver for a strong price, especially when comparing against previous results for an edition of a print,’ explains specialist Lindsay Griffith. ‘This edition of Vampyr II (Vampire II) is in truly exceptional condition for its age and the bidders saw that the sheet and printed surface are both in a brilliant state.’ An exhibition dedicated to the artist’s prints opened at the British Museum in London the week before the sale.
Estimate: €3,000-5,000 / sold for €25,000 in Paris
These chairs were made in the 18th century by Jean Boucault for Louis XV’s daughter, the Duchess of Parma. She wanted them to add a touch of Versailles class to the Palace of Colorno in Italy. ‘In addition to having an attractive estimate,’ explains Elisa Ober from Christie’s in Paris, ‘the fantastic royal provenance proved to be a hit with collectors.’ The chairs were acquired for a new residence at more than eight times their low estimate.
Estimate: $15,000-20,000 / sold for $118,750 in New York
This Cartier charm bracelet was made in 1937 — the same year in which Disney’s film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released — and features Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy and Snow White all present on the 14k gold chain. A version of it was even worn to the movie premiere by Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian. ‘It was an unusual partnership between Cartier and Disney that has never been repeated,’ says jewellery specialist Daphne Lingon, who explains that it was probably the bracelet’s whimsy that pushed the final price to almost eight times its low estimate.
Estimate: £35,000-50,000 / sold for £68,750 online
According to specialist James Baskerville, this etching by the British painter Howard Hodgkin, which is spread across five sheets of Moulin du Gué wove paper, is one of the world’s largest. ‘It measures more than six metres across,’ he explains. ‘The work’s stunning size helped it realise £68,750 at auction last week, setting a new world record price in the process for any editioned print by the artist.’
Estimate: €300-500 / sold for €6,000 in Paris
Carved during the 20th century and standing 16 cm high, this green granite vase came from the collection of the interior decorator Serge Royaux. According to Lionel Gosset, the auctioneer who sold the collection this week in Paris, there were bidders from 24 countries on the day. Royaux’s ‘perfect taste’ was typified by this lot, which went for 20 times its low estimate.
Estimate: £10,000-15,000 / sold for £93,750
Selling for more than nine times its lower estimate in an online auction, this Op Art oil on canvas from 1963 by the Polish painter Stefan Gierowski saw bidding from across Europe, says the specialist Anna Touzin. ‘It’s an exceptional work by the artist, who in 2016 and 2017 was included in two group exhibitions in Poland and Germany, and is really beautiful in the flesh. Its sale set a new record price for any work from this series.’
Estimate: $150,000-200,000 / sold for $483,000 in New York
The design of this necklace — which can zip into a bracelet — was patented by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1938 and first presented in 1951. This one was made around 1955 from gold and platinum studded with rubies and diamonds. ‘These necklaces are rare at auction, especially the vintage ones,’ says jewellery specialist Angelina Chen. ‘This example’s beautiful Fifties aesthetic helped it sell for more than three times the low estimate.’
Estimate: £1,500-2,500 / sold for £40,000 in London
Selling for more than 26 times its low estimate — and more than six times the previous auction record for any work by the artist — James Lloyd’s charming gouache on paper of a boy nuzzling his pet bunny ‘caught the imagination of collectors’, says Alice Murray, Head of Sale for Modern British & Irish Art. ‘The work, which has been in the same private collection since 1973, is reminiscent of Lucian Freud’s portraits — intense and highly detailed.’
Estimate: $15,000-20,000 / sold for $75,000 in New York
This rug, measuring 2.5 x 1.5 metres, contains an inscription which indicates that it was made for the Palace of Heavenly Purity in the Forbidden City, Beijing. ‘The rug’s beautiful saffron, rust, and deep indigo dyes echo the earth tones of the palace,’ explains Christie’s specialist Bliss Summers. ‘It would probably have been used there to receive councilmen or emissaries during the early 19th century.’ The specialist explains that Chinese rugs are particularly rare at auction, which helped this important example achieve five times its low estimate.
Estimate: €50,000-80,000 / sold for €280,000 in Paris
‘This mask from Papua New Guinea is one of the best of its kind, plus it’s in perfect condition,’ says African & Oceanic Art specialist Bruno Claessens. ‘Added to that its brilliant coiffure was a big hit during the viewing.’ Little wonder then that this extraordinary object sold for more than five times its low estimate when it went under the hammer last week in Paris.
Estimate: £1,000-1,500 / sold for £7,500 in London
Ahead of the Interiors sale in London, this terracotta plate by the French artist Jean Cocteau was chosen by the interior design Beata Heuman to dress a house she had styled for a Christie’s photoshoot. According to specialist Nathaniel Nicholson, the ceramic’s imaginative design made it extra appealing, and could well explain why it realised more than seven times its low estimate.
Estimate: $15,000-25,000 / sold for $40,000 in New York
According to specialist Becky MacGuire, it’s because this bowl bridges East and West — with a tiger hunt shown on the exterior and a fox hunt depicted on the interior — that bids came in from China, America, a European Institution and a British art advisor. ‘It was a delight seeing it sell for more than double its low estimate,’ MacGuire says.
Estimate: €70,000-100,000 / Sold for €478,000 in Paris
Painted in 1919, Hébuterne’s woman in a hat reflects the influence of her husband, Amedeo Modigliani. Despite her career lasting barely three years — she committed suicide less than 48 hours after Modigliani’s death — ‘her talent is finally being recognised by the market’, says Christie’s specialist Valérie Hess. This new world auction record for the artist comes after the success of Hébuterne’s Autoportrait, which sold for €247,500 at Christie’s last year.
Estimate: HK$450,000-650,000 / Sold for HK$3,000,000 in Hong Kong
‘Zao Wou-Ki’s works are always being sought by clients,’ says Christie’s specialist Cindy Lim. ‘The estimate for Untitled was reasonable, but there was fierce competition and we had many bidders in the room and on the phone.’ The watercolour eventually sold for more than six times its low estimate. ‘I suspect this is because the work is in great condition, the colours are sublime, and it has lots of detail, which is rare for his post-2000 work,’ adds the specialist.
Estimate: €120,000-180,000 / Sold for €514,000 in Paris
The day after the largest Van Gogh show in Britain in nearly a decade opened at Tate Britain, this graphite sketch of a girl in profile from 1882, which was included in a 1985 exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum of Western Art, sold for more than €500,000 in Paris. It was consigned by the Old Master and 19th-century drawings collector Jean Bonna. ‘International collectors, who were in Paris for the Salon du Dessin drawings fair, showed strong interest in fresh-to-market works and those with prestigious provenance,’ said Christie’s specialist Antoine Lebouteiller.
Estimate: €80,000-120,000 / Sold for €200,000 in Milan
One of two works by Oppi in Christie’s Thinking Italian evening sale on 3 April, this painting was shown at the 1926 Venice Bienniale. Selling for more than double its low estimate, it set a new world record price at auction for the artist. ‘It’s great for Oppi, but I think also shows that historical figurative paintings are back in fashion,’ remarks Christie’s specialist Renato Pennisi.
Estimate: $10,000-15,000 / Sold for $47,500 in New York
Steichen’s portrait of the American actress Loretta Young, taken for Vanity Fair when she was aged just 18, shows her at the cusp of becoming a Hollywood star. ‘It's a haunting image with great tonality,’ says Christie’s specialist Shlomi Rabi. ‘Because this print is so strong — and it has never come up for auction before — it brought in a great result.’