On Saturday December 1, a number of venues closed including Artcurial, Sotheby's and Christie's. However in the auction series plenty of strong results were achieved across all disciplines, with many sales held before the 'Gilets jaunes' protests really took hold.
Christie’s select sale in its Exceptional format was led by an Italian Old Master by Bernardino Luini, a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci.
The 15.75 x 11.75in (40 x 30cm) oil on panel, a bust-length portrait of an unidentified saint reading a book, had not been seen in public since 1865, the last time it was sold at auction in Paris from the collection of the Duchesse de Berry. At that time it was thought to be a work by Leonardo. The painting was then acquired by a M Laneville, an art dealer/expert, for the Comte Charles-Marie Tanneguy Duchâtel, and passed down by descent since then.
It was first attributed to Luini in 1956 and since 1965 it had been classed as a monument historique, meaning that restrictions apply to its movement outside French territories.
Before including it in the sale on November 27, Christie’s arranged restoration work on the panel removing what its auction specialist Pierre Etienne described as a “steel frame” which had caused a vertical crack to appear in the panel by restricting its movement. Otherwise, he said, “the whole thing was in fantastic condition”.
Although the monument historique classification restricts its potential market there was interest in the painting from foreign clients and four bidders emerged at the auction.
In the end it realised double the €400,000-600,000 estimate at €1m (£892,860) hammer, selling to a French private buyer.
The price sets a new auction high for the artist, surpassing by a considerable margin the previous record for Luini of £352,800 (including premium) paid at Sotheby’s in 2004 for an oil on panel of a female martyr.
Topping Artcurial’s November 13 sale of Old Master and 19th century paintings and works on paper at €390,000 (£348,820) was this small, 6.25 x 5.5in (16 x 14cm), oil on panel of a gentleman from the court of François 1 by the French artist Corneille de Lyon. The hitherto unpublished painting, dating from c.1540, had a provenance back to the Vischer family in the 19th century.
A single-owner sale held at Drouot on November 21 by Art Richelieu/Castor-Hara encompassed paintings by major Old Master and Impressionist names, classic 18th century furniture and works of art. Topping the bill at €1.42m (£126,785) against an estimate of €800,000-1.2m was Camille Pissarro’s oil on canvas of 1901, depicting an autumnal landscape at Eragny. The painting had a full provenance back to the year of creation when it was sold by the artist to the gallery Bernheim-Jeune.
A group of 14 paintings by Maurice Utrillo, famed as the painter of what have now become quintessential Parisian street scenes, was offered at Drouot by Tessier Sarrou on November 23. They were part of a collection of Pierre Lavasseur, an early supporter and agent for the artist, that had remained within the family.
All 14 changed hands, led by this view of the avenue de Versailles with the Eiffel tower which realised €150,000 (£133,930).
This pair of 14.5in (36.5cm) high Louis XV/Louis XVI ewers were the toast of a sale held by Auction Art Remy le Fur at Drouot on November 21. The ewers, in black lacquered tôle decorated with chinoiserie designs and applied with gilt bronze mounts, were bid to over three times their estimate at €225,000 (£200,890).
Four French auction houses (Aguttes, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Ader) took part in the latest dispersal of material from the Aristophil manuscript collection, offering a total of five sales that raised a premium-inclusive total of €8.8m.
One notable aspect of the series was the number of preemptions by French institutions: 32 in total. A large number of these were made by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, including Gustave Flaubert’s signed 1838 autograph manuscript for Les Memoires d’un Fou at Ader’s November 15 Literature auction which, at premium-inclusive €364,000, was one of the 10 highest prices of the series.
Another of the lots from the Ader sale was this copy of Joris Karl Huysmann’s A Rebours, illustrated by Auguste Lepère with a binding in leather, eggshell, lacquer and gold by Pierre Legrain. It sold for to a collector for a hammer price of €80,000 (£71,430).