The overall amount of money changing hands remained stable year-on-year. With Sotheby’s, Christie’s, MacDougall’s and Bonhams all staging dedicated auctions last week, the series generated a combined total of £23.9m (including premium) – marginally up on the £23.2m in 2017.
The market, though, remains at around half the level compared to its peak a decade ago.
Early 20th century theatrical works and costume designs for the Ballets Russes are an area of strength and two such works provided the highest individual prices of the series.
Christie’s top lot on June 4 was a life-size depiction of a dancer in Spanish costume by the painter and designer Alexandre Iacovleff (1887-1938). Executed in sanguine and charcoal on paper laid down on board, it was described as “a rare example of Iacovleff’s grand portraiture in private hands”.
Key to the strong interest that emerged against a £400,000-600,000 estimate was the subject. It is believed to be the great ballerina Anna Pavlova in costume for a performance of Don Quixote in 1924. It was knocked down at £920,000, a huge return for the vendor who had bought it at Sotheby’s in December 1995 for £8625 (with premium).
The top lot at Sotheby’s on June 5 also provided a hefty return for the vendor. Harlequin, a sanguine and charcoal on paper laid on canvas by Alexander Evgenievich Yakovlev (1887- 1938) dated 1922 was from a series of Commedia dell’arte subjects.
Previously sold in the same rooms in 2006 for £265,600 including premium, this time it overshot a £200,000 top estimate to sell at £600,000 to a private Russian buyer.