Christie’s announced with great fanfare a Vincent van Gogh watercolour to be offered with an estimate of $20m-30m in New York next month – expected to set a record price for a van Gogh work on paper.
Completed in June 1888, Meules de blé (wheat stacks) is one of the first from van Gogh’s series depicting the harvest in Arles in the south of France.
Its consignment to auction follows a long and complex restitution case.
The work was acquired by industrialist Max Meirowsky but during the early part of the Nazi regime in Germany, Meirowsky faced anti-Jewish persecution, leading to the sale of his collection. In late 1938 Meirowsky fled Germany and the picture went to German émigré dealership Paul Graupe & Cie in Paris.
Meules de blé then entered the Parisian collection of Miriam Caroline Alexandrine de Rothschild. But with the outbreak of the Second World War, de Rothschild fled to Switzerland and her art collection in Paris, including Meules de blé, was confiscated by the Nazis during the occupation.
Following various subsequent owners, eventually a settlement agreement between the current owner (heirs of US businessman Edwin Cox), the heir of Max Meirowsky, as well as the heirs of de Rothschild has led to the picture coming to auction.
It is being sold in The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism on November 11 where two other van Gogh pictures will also be offered.
Also at Christie’s, but in London on December 15, a microscope with direct provenance to Charles Darwin (1809-82), will be estimated at £250,000-350,000 in the Valuable Books & Manuscripts auction.
The Gould-type microscope by Cary was given by Darwin to his son Leonard (1850-1943) in 1864. It has remained in the family for nearly 200 years.
Botticelli at Sotheby's
At Sotheby’s, a painting titled The Man of Sorrows, billed as ‘the defining masterpiece of Sandro Botticelli’s (c.1445-1510) late career’, is on offer. Estimated in excess of $40m, it will be the highlight of its Masters week of sales in New York in January.
The portrait of the resurrected Christ dates from the late 15th to early 16th century when, according to the auction house, the artist was greatly influenced by the fanatical Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola and adopted a style characterised by visionary symbolism and spirituality.
When it last appeared at auction in 1963, consigned from the collection of Lady Cunynghame, it sold for £10,000.
In the past The Man of Sorrows was considered to have the involvement of the artist’s workshop. However, it has since had its attribution upgraded and it appeared as an autograph work at an exhibition dedicated to the Florentine master at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2009-10.
According to Sotheby’s, the attribution is endorsed by the chief curator of European art at Yale University, Laurence Kanter, and the chairman of the department of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Keith Christiansen.
The painting has remained in the same private collection since the 1963 auction and had rarely been seen publicly until the Frankfurt show.
The latest consignment follows Botticelli’s Young Man Holding a Roundel making $80m (£58.4m) at Sotheby’s New York in January this year.
Lowry at auction
This autumn, The Auction by LS Lowry will be offered at Sotheby’s Modern British Art auction in London on November 23. Estimated at £1.2m-1.8m, the 1958 large-scale picture has never been offered at auction.
The present owner bought it more than two decades ago and it was previously exhibited at Lowry’s retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1976. It was last shown at AMNUA in Nanjing, China in 2014.
Ahead of the sale The Auction will be exhibited to the public from November 18-22.