Published: July 4, 2000
LONDON, ENGLAND – Edgar Degas’ bronze of a young ballet dancer, “Petite Dansuse de quatorze ans,” was sold at Sotheby’s on Tuesday, June 27, for £7,703,500. It was the first time the figure, with her original tutu and hair ribbon, had appeared at auction in Europe and the price was an auction record for any sculpture in Europe. It was purchased by an anonymous private collector bidding on the telephone.
“Petite Danseuse de quatorze ans” was executed in wax circa 1879-1881 and was the only sculpture exhibited during Degas’ lifetime. It was first seen publicly in the sixth Impressionist exhibition in 1881 where its realism shocked many contemporary critics. Another cast was sold by Sotheby’s New York in November 1999 for $12.3 million, which still holds the dollar record price for a Degas sculpture.
Melanie Clore, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and head of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department, said she was delighted by the price, which was in line with expectations.
Overall, the sale was a great success and sculpture fared very well. Alberto Giacometti’s “Femme de Venise IV,’ which was conceived in plaster in 1956 and cast in bronze in 1957, sold for £1,873,5000, well above its estimate of £1/1.5 million. Picasso’s “Tete de femme (Fernande)” of 1909, a portrait of the artist’s lover of the time and one of the artist’s most important Cubist sculptures, sold for £1,653,500, well above its pre-sale estimate of £600/800,000.
Claude Monet’s colorful masterpiece of early Impressionism, “La Plage a Trouville,” was the most expensive lot in the sale. It was bought by a private collector for £11,003,500 against an unpublished estimate of £10 million. Painted in the summer of 1870 at the fashionable coastal resort where the artist spent the summer after his marriage to his wife Camille, the painting was acquired by the present owner 12 years ago in the sale of the collection of William and Edith Mayer Goetz at Christie’s in New York in November 1988. On that occasion it sold for $10.7 million.
The theme of the dancer was revisited in the sale by the colorful and geometric “Danseuse dans le fauteuil sol en damier” by Henri Matisse, which sold to a private buyer for £4,953,500, against an estimate of £2,5/3,500,000. The model was the dancer Carla Avogadro, the sister of his long-serving model Michaela.
The sale raised a total of £45,837,000 against a pre-sale low estimate of £41.9 million. Pablo Picasso’s “Les Blondes Chevelures (La Ronde Des Fillettes)” sold immediately after the sale for £3,083,500, taking the total to more than £48 million. A total of 21 lots sold at prices above the high estimate, ten at or between the high and low estimate and only two for prices below the low estimate.
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