The works, offered in new-year sales held 700 miles apart in Massachusetts and Michigan, comprised a canvas by the Russian- French abstract artist Nicolas de Staël (1914-55) and a bronze sculpture by Ángel Botello (1913-86), the versatile Spanish-Puerto Rican sculptor, painter and graphic artist dubbed ‘The Caribbean Gauguin’.
Blue Nude, c.1955, by de Staël, is among the last works he painted before his death and was offered at Kaminski Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Beverly, Massachusetts, on December 29-30.
The small, 8 x 10½in (20 x 27cm), framed oil on paper of a reclining nude had been purchased by the vendor at a Palm Beach estate sale.
De Staël had a short but productive career, spanning roughly 15 years and producing more than a thousand paintings. But in 1955, suffering from exhaustion, insomnia and depression, he leapt to his death from his studio terrace in Antibes at the age of 41.
Blue Nude shows de Staël’s shift towards the end of his life from abstract landscape painting to figurative works. With several European phone bidders and online bidders active on the lot, it exceeded the $30,000-50,000 estimate to sell for $70,000 (£51,850).
Such late works have proved their commercial appeal at auction before.
In November, Sotheby’s New York sold a painting nearly triple the size from 1954 of a landscape in Antibes, which exceeded a $800,000-1.2m estimate to sell for a premium-inclusive $2.29m.
Even more sought-after was a large canvas of a nude from 1953, which sold at Artcurial Paris on December 2011 for a premium-inclusive auction record of €7.03m.
In Ypsilanti, Michigan, Botello’s bronze cast of a mother holding a child in her arms led the sale on January 1 at Schmidt’s Antiques (does not charge buyer’s premium).
Privately consigned, the 3ft 2in (97cm) high sculpture sold for $36,000 (£26,670) against a $30,000-50,000 estimate.
Although he worked in different mediums and embarked upon sculpture late in his career, Botello’s three-dimensional works are among the most popular sellers at auction.
Smaller versions of the same mother and child composition were made in an edition of 12 in 1970 and have sold for similar prices on the secondary market.
At Christie’s New York in November 2010, one took a premium-inclusive $25,000.
£1 = $1.35