Knocked down at $23.5m (£19.1m) at Sotheby’s sale on January 26, Salome presented with the head of Saint John the Baptist registered the third highest for Rubens at auction although the price was below the $25m-35m estimate.
It carried a third-party guarantee which meant it was always bound to sell on the day.
The 10 Baroque pictures from the Fisch-Davidson consignment raised a $49.6m (£40.3m) total. A further $8.15m (£6.62m) came at Sotheby’s from a group of 12 Dutch pictures formerly owned by the late Seattle collector Theiline Scheumann, while the f irm’s mixed-owner Old Master sale registered $28.8m (£23.4m) from 53 lots.
The latter auction was led by a rare Bronzino (1503-72) portrait restituted last year to the heirs of the German heiress Ilse Hesselberger. A long misattributed early work, it was estimated at $3m-5m and sold to a buyer in the room for a record $9m (£7.32m).
In a change from recent years, Christie’s staged a full series of Old Masters auctions having held only drawings sales since it shifted its ‘Classic Week’ from January to April back in 2016.
The top lot at Christie’s was a pair of Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) portraits depicting a mother and daughter from a textile merchant family. On January 25, they were knocked down below predictions at $14m (£11.4m). Overall, the mixed-vendor sale generated a $44.3m total including premium.
On the same day Christie’s offered 76 works from the collection of Jacqui (Jacob) Eli Safra, a descendant of the Safra banking family, which were offered without reserve. The consignment raised a premium-inclusive $18.5m (£15.1m), although many of the lots sold below estimate.
It was led by an album of 139 illustrations by Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686-1755) for an edition of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine. The group, which included the frontispiece from 1752, was estimated at $1.5m- 2.5m and sold at $2.2m (£1.79m).