No fewer than nine works by Picasso got away at the two back-to-back evening auctions last night (February 27) with at least six of them knocked down in the room to Harry Smith of Gurr Johns – the art advisory and brokerage firm that is also the owner of Dreweatts’ auction house.
Presumed to be bidding for a client, Smith secured the top lot of the night, Picasso’s 1967 oil Mousquetaire et nu assis, at £12m. The painting of a musketeer alongside a figure based on Jacqueline Roque, the artist’s muse and second wife, was always bound to sell on the night thanks to its third-party guarantee.
Nevertheless, the bidding failed to go beyond the lower end of its £12m-18m estimate.
The competition for this work was in contrast to the first lot of the night, an earlier and smaller gouache and watercolour that Picasso had executed in Saint-Raphaël in 1919. Titled Nature morte devant une fenêtre, it was pitched at £500,000-800,000 and was chased by four bidders who took it to a final £1.8m.
Overall, the combined sales posted a robust performance with 76 of 97 lots finding buyers (78%). The hammer total was £126.7m against a pre-sale estimate of £122m-£167m.