Parisian sale of Old Master & 19th Century paintings breaks records


The sale room at Sotheby's Paris

Sotheby’s Paris sale of Old Master & 19th Century paintings and drawings on Thursday last week was a runaway success, bringing in a total of €8.2 million ($11.1 million): the highest sale total ever achieved in this category for the last 20 years in France.

The afternoon’s highest price went to a newly-rediscovered work by Artemisia Gentileschi, pushed by seven bidders to €865,500 ($1.175.211) – a world auction record for the artist.

This Baroque work, in excellent condition, was an important rediscovery made by the Paris Old Master Department in an age-old collection from the south of France that enabled this Caravaggesque portrayal of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy to re-emerge in public after being hidden from view for 80 years (lot 24, est. €200,000-300,000).

Pierre Etienne, head of Old Master Paintings & Drawings said: ‘It was a great thrill to rediscover a top-level work by such an exciting artist. The market saluted this painting of tremendous importance with an international-level price.’

Another spectacular bidding war saw three bidders compete for a painting by Paul-César Helleu: his Impressionistic Portrait of Madame Helleu with an Umbrella (c.1899) from the Olivier Sainsère Collection, a magnificent female portrait that obtained €793,500 ($1.077.446), the second-highest price for a work by the artist and a record for Helleu in

France (lot 114, est. €100,000-150,000).

Pascale Pavageau, Head of 19th Century Paintings & Drawings said: ‘The incredible price obtained for this masterpiece by Paul-Cesar Helleu rewards a rare work in a perfect state of preservation – a veritable Impressionist showpiece.’

A number of other world auction records were set during the sale, led by the €529,500 ($718.976) paid by the UK trade for an attractive Portrait of Elisabeth de France by Frans Pourbus the Younger, a portraitist of genius (lot 12, est. €60,000-80,000).