Falling below expectations, the Old Masters auction sales in New York brought in a combined total of $122 million last week. About one-third of offered lots went unsold. Buyers were choosy and works with conservative estimates sold well, along with enduringly-popular scenes such as 18th-century Italian views.
A Venetian view by Vanvitelli, purchased from London’s Richard Green gallery in 1979 for £45,000 was bought back by Green for $1.5 million (£989,000) at Christie's. A later Venetian view by Canaletto, bought at auction in 1986 for $360,000, sold for $5.7 million at Sotheby's.
Christie's sold from the late actress Elizabeth Taylor's estate, a recently-attributed Frans Hals "Portrait of a Man, Half-Length," which was for decades thought to be by an imitator or student of Hals, but has been determined to be by the Dutch master.
Rare gold-ground paintings found interest. A recently attributed painting of the Annunciation by the 14th-century Sienese artist Simone Martini sold at auction for a record $4.1 million, and concurrent to the auctions, dealer Fabrizio Moretti hosted a well-attended annual winter exhibition of early Italian Old Masters featuring glowing gold-ground works.
Among the highlights at Moretti Fine Art is a triptych of the Enthroned Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints; the Redeemer; the Annunciation by the Master of the Richardson Triptych (c.1370-1415).
From the collection of famed Florentine collector Carlo de Carlo (1931-1999), the triptych, offered at above $1.4 million, is part of the exhibition The Middle Ages and Early Renaissance: Paintings and Sculpture from the Carlo de Carlo Collection and other provenances, on view through February 10 at Moretti, 24 East 80th Street, New York.