Published: January 31, 2023
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy Clarke Auction Gallery
LARCHMONT, N.Y. — Clarke Auction Gallery started 2023 strong with its New Year’s Estate Auction on January 22. Of almost 600 lots, about one third of those were of the furniture category, however, it was fine art that led the sale overall. Israeli art attracted much attention, as well as Chinese and European art. The auction totaled approximately $1.2 million with a 95 percent sell-through rate.
The top lot was a painting by Reuven Rubin (Romanian-Israeli, 1893-1974), a topical landscape of the Israeli countryside titled “Road to Safed.” Painted in 1927, the oil on canvas came from the collection of Hope Weil and has been authenticated by the Rubin Museum Foundation in Tel Aviv, Israel. In the weeks leading up to the sale, global interest piqued for the oil on canvas painting by the late Romanian-Israeli artist who spent much time in New York. He was a close family friend to the Weil family, which kept the painting for decades until now. The Galilean landscape, populated with groves of trees and flat-topped houses, was originally bought by the Weils at a New York City auction in 1928. “Safed” was cataloged in Sarah Wilkinson’s 1974 monograph on Rubin, and bid to $300,000 within its $250/350,000 estimate. It was purchased on the phone and will be returning to Tel Aviv.
Two lots related to Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) also bid to success. Third in the sale was a white earthenware ceramic pitcher that was glazed, marked and numbered from Picasso’s Madoura studio, titled “Visage aux yeux rieurs” (Face with laughing eyes). The pitcher bid to $55,000, almost five times its high estimate of $8/12,000 and a record for that edition of 300, according to owner and auctioneer Ronan Clarke. An aquatint of a Picasso still life by Jacques Villon (French, 1875-1963) also did well at $12,500 against $6/9,000. Printed on woven paper, the aquatint was numbered and signed in pencil by both Villon and Picasso and was also consigned by Hope Weil, as was an antique walnut dentist’s cabinet that sold for $250 ($200/300).
Contemporary Chinese artist Gao Xiaohua’s (b 1955) work appeared in the sale and also exceeded its estimate. Xiaohua paints both modern and historical subjects, and “Ladies With Parasols” showed three women in traditional dress, save for the Converse-style sneakers worn by the woman on the righthand side of the painting. The painting sold for $18,750 past its $10/15,000 estimate, and was joined by traditional Chinese decorative arts in the upper lots to even more exponential results. A blue and white lotus vase with a dragon motif sold for $10,000 ($300/500) and a large enamel-decorated famille verte Gu vase collected $6,875 ($300/500).
The largest art object to be sold was a monumental bronze sculpture by Émile Louis Picault (French, 1833-1915), a prolific artist who created more than 500 models of mostly allegorical and mythological subjects during his career. Picault frequently submitted to the Salon des Beaux-Arts and signed his work simply as “E. Picault,” including this sculpture. The bronze is titled “Vox Progressi” or “The Voice of Progress,” as inscribed on the angel’s slab, and bears another inscription that translates to “always walk towards the light.” It flew to $15,000 from a $4/6,000 estimate.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as quoted by the auction house. Clarke’s Winter Unreserved Fine Art Auction will occur online on February 16, and its Fabulous February Estate auction will be on February 19. For information, 914-833-8336 or www.clarkeny.com.
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