Published: December 12, 2006
“A healthy result for a well-edited sale was the outcome of today’s Nineteenth Century European paintings auction,” said Deborah Coy, Christie’s department head, following the October 25 auction of Orientalists and Academics. The sale totaled $12,236,340 and was 73 percent sold by value and 65 percent sold by lot.
The Orientalists thrived through travel and adventure and captured in their works the exotic allure of a mysterious and lush faraway part of the world. The adherents of the Academic Tradition, epitomized by William Adolphe Bouguereau, rigorously followed centuries-old schemes framed by the prestigious institutions: the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Salon des Beaux-Arts and the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Both movements produced excellent artists whose influence lingered on for generations and whose works currently grace museum walls and the houses of private collectors. It is only the Nineteenth Century that in all its whimsical diversity and openness could have formed the backdrop for two so dramatically different movements.
The sale’s top two lots were paintings by Bouguereau. “Secrets d’amour,” dating from a later period in the artist’s career, was the top lot at $856,000, going to a US private buyer. In “Secrets d’amour,” a young girl is leaning against a fountain, an important and recurrent symbol in the artist’s oeuvre.
The theme of mothers and children entered Bouguereau’s work from the 1865 onward. “Le Reveil” painted in that same year attests to the painter’s new fascination. It sold for $576,000.
“The market’s appetite for the Orientalists, led by the American artists Edwin Lord Weeks and Frederick Arthur Bridgman, is still noticeably present and many of the Orientalists paintings were among the strong performers in the sale,” noted Coy.
Weeks, born near Boston, traveled to different locations in the Orient, using Morocco and India as his main sources of inspiration. Before giving in to a profound wanderlust, Weeks studied under Léon Bonnat at the Ecole in Paris in the mid-1870s. He established his reputation as an Orientalist with his first submission of a painting to the Salon of 1878, which was followed by “Un embarquement de chameux sur la plage de Salé, Maroc.” The large canvas executed in 1880, the epitome of Weeks’ Moroccan oeuvre, brought $531,200. Also by Weeks from his Indian period, “The Temple and Tank of Walkeschwar at Bombay” fetched $441,600.
Coy continued, “The diversity of the offered material, combined with their very reasonable estimates, attracted solid bidding throughout morning and afternoon sessions with very decent results achieved for French Academic, Victorian and Mediterranean paintings. The Barbizon School — currently a collecting field offering excellent buying opportunities — was clearly witnessing a subtle revival with Léon Augustin Lhermitte’s ‘Laveuses au lavoir’ fetching $318,400, almost tripling its presale estimate.”
Rounding out the sale’s top lots were Arthur John Elsley, “As Good as Ever,” oil on canvas, $419,200; Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat, “Samson’s Youth,” oil on canvas, $408,000; Eugène Delacroix, “The Banks of the River Sebou,” oil on canvas, $408,000; James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, “Dans la serre,” oil on canvas, $374,400; Arthur von Ferrais, “Driving a Bargain,” oil on panel, $374,400; and Frederico del Campo, “The Grand Canal with a View of the Ca’ d’Oro, Venice,” oil on canvas, $318,400.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 212-636-2000 or www.christies.com.
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