Strong international appetite for British paintings and Old Masters


Asian and Russian buyers dominate London Old Masters sales.



Tuesday’s London evening sales of Old Master & British paintings at Sotheby’s and Christie’s was a truly international affair. An Asian buyer snapped up George Stubbs’ Tygers at Play for £7.7 million, far in excess of its estimate of £4-6 million, making it the top lot of the evening.

Some 20% of the Sotheby’s lots attracted bids from Russian buyers, while the Christie’s sale attracted 145 registered bidders from 27 countries across five continents.

The top price paid at the Christie’s sale was for Venice, the Bacino di San Marco with the Piazzetta and the Doge’s Palace by Francesco Guardi, which realised £9.8million, setting the second highest price for the artist at auction.

“The continued breadth of demand for Old Masters was reflected by the fact that bidders from 27 countries across 5 continents registered to bid in this auction,” said Henry Pettifer, head of Old Master & British Paintings at Christie’s London.

“We are very pleased with the results of the works from The Barbara Piasecka Johnson Collection which was led by Vermeer’s Saint Praxedis and included a group of Italian Baroque paintings which set new record prices at auction.

“Notable prices were also achieved for the masterpiece by Francesco Guardi from The Baron Henri de Rothschild Collection (lot 19: £9,882,500) and the Brueghel the Younger Road to Calvary (lot 13: £5.5 million), each respectively setting the second highest auction price for the artist.”

The Sotheby’s sale set a record for an Old Master and British Paintings evening sale at Sotheby’s London and eclipsed Sotheby’s landmark 2002 total of £67.58 million.

“With 17 auction records and unprecedented international participation, we saw the market at its best,” said Alex Bell, joint international head and co-chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department.

“The prestigious aristocratic and private collections that constituted the core of tonight’s sale were the secret of this success. Having remained in the same collections for centuries, most of the works carried the imprimatur of the greatest art patrons of the day, such as the Dukes of Northumberland and the Earls of Warwick and bore witness to the discerning eye of some of the most important collectors of the 20th century, including Baron Coppée and Barbara Piasecka Johnson.”