In October, the auction house will hold two sales instead of one, with a select offering of around 30 top lots held in advance of a more traditional sale of works pitched at a wider variety of price points.
The two auctions have also been rebranded as European Art Part I and European Art Part II – dropping the ‘19th century’ epithet from the sale title.
Both will be held on October 31 as part of Christie’s Classic Week auctions which coincides with the TEFAF New York fair.
Highlights from the Part 1 sale will be exhibited in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London in September as the auctioneers seek to encourage greater international interest in the top level of this market, which has fallen behind sectors such as modern and contemporary art over a sustained period.
Christie’s said it has taken the decision to launch the separate sale of “masterpiece-level art” after some recent strong prices in the 19 century category. These included the series of record prices at the sale of the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection in May for artists such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Armand Séguin (1869-1903) and Odilon Redon (1840-1916).
Christie’s head of department in New York Deborah Coy said: “Nineteenth century masterpieces have performed with increasingly strong results, driven by competition from traditional collectors and collectors of modern and contemporary art, as well as a notable increase of participation from Asia.”
Among a group of key lots already announced for the European Art Part I sale is Edward Burne-Jones’ Paradise with the Adoration of the Lamb that was formerly in the collection of Yves Saint Laurent. It is estimated at $800,000-1.2m.
Another highlight with an illustrious provenance is William Adolphe Bouguereau’s (1825-1905) Récolte de noisettes, which was formerly in the collections of Diamond Jim Brady and William Randolph Hearst. It is estimated at $1.5m-2m.
Femme endormie aux cheveux roux by Gustave Courbet (1819-77) will also be offered with a $3.5m-4.5m estimate. Painted in 1864, it was previously owned by Henri Matisse.
Christie’s total from its 19th Century European Art sale in New York last October was $6.1m (including premium). With the lots already announced, the auction house will be looking to improve on this figure with the new sales format which it said “presents a unique platform for the most renowned artists of this diverse and often revolutionary era of art”.
The rest of Christie’s calendar for 19th Century European art remains unchanged, with another sale taking place in April in New York and the London auctions scheduled as usual for July and December.
Seymour Stein collection
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s will be selling 27 works from the collection of music talent-spotter Seymour Stein in London in July. The group of works focuses on 19th century and pre-Raphaelite art and includes The Siren by John William Waterhouse which is estimated at £1m-1.5m.
The man who signed Madonna, and had previously handled the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Bee Gees, is also selling works by Simeon Solomon, Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.