Sotheby's Masters Week kicks off with record-setting sales for Tiepolo, Mantegna & more

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Sotheby's Masters Week kicks off with record-setting sales for Tiepolo, Mantegna & more
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Madonna of the Rosary with angels, oil on canvas, 1735. Estimate: In excess of $15 million. Sold for: $17,349,000 (£13,320,792). Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s annual Masters Week sale series kicked off yesterday in New York, with 142 paintings and drawings sold across two auctions for an overall total of $76.2 million.

The day began with Andrea Mantegna’s drawing of The Triumph of Alexandria selling for $11.7 million – a new world auction record for a drawing by the artist. This result helped propel the Old Master Drawings sale to a total of $15.1 million, which marks a new record for an Old Master Drawings sale at Sotheby’s worldwide—the second year in a row the auction house established a new benchmark during Masters Week in New York.

Yesterday’s Master Paintings Evening Sale further celebrated Italian artists, as Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s monumental altarpiece of the Madonna of the Rosary with Angels sold for a record $17.3 million, nearly 3x the artist’s previous auction record. The results of this evening sale, which totaled $61.1 million, is up 16% over the same sale in 2018 and marks the highest total for any Master Paintings sale in New York since 2012.

Below is a look at some of the highlights that drove the results of yesterday’s auctions:

Auction Total: $61.1 Million
*Sotheby’s Highest Total for a Master Paintings Sale in New York since 2012*

Auction Records Established For: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Andrea di Niccolò, Willem de Poorter, Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraaten, Crispin van den Broeck, Rutilio Manetti, Dirck van Baburen and Franceso Zanin

Christopher Apostle, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department in New York, commented: “Tonight’s wonderful results were an indicator of the strength of the Master Paintings market across the full range of this field, from early Italian and Northern pictures to Baroque paintings and 17th century Dutch and Flemish pictures. Works of the finest quality achieved significant prices, most notably the record-setting sale of the monumental Madonna by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and two extraordinary works by Sir Peter Paul Rubens that had not been on the market in decades. Throughout the sale, we saw spirited bidding in the room, on the phone, and online, with many works far exceeding their high estimates after back-and-forth bidding battles. There was a broad base of buyers, including private collectors and dealers from the United States, Europe, and Asia. We are excited to carry over the evening’s enthusiasm through the rest of Masters Week.”

Yesterday’s auction was led by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s monumental altarpiece of The Madonna of the Rosary with Angels, which sold for $17.3 million, establishing a new record for the artist at auction, and more than doubling the artist’s previous auction record. Painted in 1735, the altarpiece is a mature early work, dating from a period that is considered Tiepolo’s best and one that brought him recognition as the greatest painter of 18th-century Europe. Measuring over 8 feet tall, the work is distinguished as the largest and most valuable offering of the Venetian artist's work to come to market. Major works of such astounding quality by Tiepolo are rare on the international market, for much of his work was carried out in frescoes and altarpieces that remain in situ or are located in museums.

Yesterday’s offering of Flemish masterworks was led by Sir Peter Paul Rubens’s The Virgin and Christ Child, With Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist, which sold for $7.1 million (estimate $6/8 million). Recently rediscovered through research led by Sotheby’s Otto Naumann, the painting appeared at auction for the first time in over 70 years, having remained in private collections. Previously unrecorded, the work represents a critical addition to Rubens scholarship and will appear in the forthcoming new volume of the Corpus Rubenianum catalogue raisonné.

An extraordinary sketch of The Last Supper by Rubens, which has not appeared at auction for more than 35 years, fetched $2.3 million (estimate $1.5/2 million). Executed mainly in grisaille, the work was made in preparation for an engraving by the printmaker Boëthius A. Bolswert (1580-1633), which reproduced the composition of Rubens’s altarpiece for St. Rombouts Cathedral in Mechelen. Grisaille sketches like this played a role in disseminating and protecting Rubens’s ideas for major compositions, because the wide distribution of ensuing prints would act as a de facto copyright over his designs.

Further highlights from the sale include a majestic View of The Grand Canal Looking East with Santa Maria Della Salute by Canaletto, which sold for $5.3 million to benefit The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Acquisition Fund (estimate $3/5 million), and Francisco de Goya’s oil sketch of Hannibal The Conqueror Viewing Italy From the Alps For The First Time, which soared over 2x its high-estimate to achieve $1.8 million.

Auction Total: $15.1 Million
*Record for Any Old Master Drawings Sale at Sotheby’s*

Gregory Rubinstein, Head of Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings Department, commented: “We are extremely pleased with the results from today’s sale, which set a record for an Old Master Drawings sale at Sotheby’s worldwide—the second year in a row we’ve established a new benchmark during Masters Week in New York. As the market continues to grow and trend upward, today we saw great demand for works of the highest quality and rarity. Led by Andrea Mantegna’s only known preparatory study for his Triumphs series, along with the first drawing by 15th century master Bernardino Pintoricchio ever to appear at auction, collectors responded enthusiastically to these exceedingly rare masterworks. To showcase works and artists that have been obscured for centuries is a remarkable thrill and privilege, and we look forward to offering exquisite treasures in London this July.”

Italian Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna’s only known preparatory study for his painting of The Triumph of Alexandria, the second canvas in the great series of nine paintings representing The Triumph of Caesar, now in the British Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace, achieved a record-setting $11.7 million. The sale established a new auction record for a drawing by the artist and places the work as the 5th most expensive Old Master drawing sold at auction. It also marks the most expensive Old Master drawing sold in the United States.

One of the most art historically important drawings ever to appear at auction, the pen and ink drawing was recently rediscovered and Mantegna’s authorship was conclusively determined through the research of Cristiana Romalli, Senior Director and Italian specialist in Sotheby’s Old Master Drawings department. On the sale of the drawing, Romalli commented: “It has been such a privilege to bring this masterpiece to auction and to get to know this superb work, which is a great testament of one of the most important artists of the Renaissance. It’s been the year of Mantegna, having been the subject of three major museum shows in 2019, and we were thrilled to see it generate such excitement among private collectors and institutions alike.”

The study is among approximately 20 known drawings by Mantegna. All except two are in the collections of major museums, such as the British Museum in London, and only two other drawings by Mantegna have appeared at auction in the last half century. The drawing is a study for ‘The Standard Bearers and the Siege Equipment,’ which is the second canvas in the Triumphs series of nine paintings. The drawing theatrically recreates a section of the processional that includes gigantic statues on carts, a model of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and oversized siege weapons.

A further highlight from yesterday’s sale include a beautifully preserved drawing of The Madonna and Child by the early Umbrian master, Bernardino di Betto, called Pintoricchio, which soared past its pre-sale high estimate of $600,000, realizing $920,000 and establishing a new auction record for the artist. Measuring over 8 inches in length, this extraordinary devotional image was unknown to scholars until very recently and is the first drawing by the artist to appear at auction. Approximately 10 drawings by the artist are known, and the works that constitute the very small corpus of the artist’s known drawings are close to the graphic style of Perugino, and to that of the young Raphael, whose debt to the Umbrian master is evident in his very early career. Multiple bidders also helped to propel a 16 sheet ‘Tournament Book’ of Knights by the Workshop of Hans Burgkmair the Elder to $462,500 (estimate $250/350,000).

The sale also established a record for a drawing by Roelandt Savery, whose Mountainous Landscape with Travellers on a Rocky Path, sold for $212,500, surpassing its high estimate of $60,000; further artist records were established for Pieter Boddingh van Laer, Paulus Constantijn la Fargue, Johannes van Bronckhorst and Giovanni Zuccarelli.

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