Published: April 10, 2001
Versace Collection Exceeds $10 Million at Sotheby’s
NEW YORK CITY – Exceeding its high estimate, Sotheby’s three-day sale of fine art, furniture and fashions from the collection of the late designer Gianni Versace came to a close April 7, bringing a total of $10,177,340.
Over the telephone, in the salesroom, and through commission bids, collectors and Versace devotees from around the world – Spain, Argentina, Australia, France, England, the U.S., the Middle East and, of course, Italy -competed for his prized possessions. Three auctioneers – Tobias Meyer, Benjamin Doller and Ian Irving – kept the pace moving swiftly through all four sessions. Eighty-seven percent of the sold lots met or exceeded their high estimates.
Elaine Whitmire, head of Nineteenth Century furniture at Sotheby’s, commented, “Throughout his life, Versace showed genius for combining elements of antiquity and modernity in exuberant and inspired designs. The response from both seasoned and first-time buyers shows clearly that his influence continues today. In this sale buyers repeatedly expressed their great appreciation for Versace’s unique style and for his impeccable eye for collecting works of assured quality”.
Top selling lots included Antoine Dubost’s painting “Le Retour d’Hèléne” that set a record for the artist at auction by selling for $236,750; a fine Charles X hardstone-mounted ormolu console, signed Jacob Freres, circa 1830, that more than doubled its high estimate to fetch $192,750; an Empire ormolu-mounted mahogany bureau plat circa 1800, that sold for $110,000; and two micromosaic plaques from the early 19th century that brought $104,250.
Speaking on behalf of the Versace family, spokesman Lou Colasuonno said: “Gianni Versace caught the world’s attention as one of the most influential fashion designers of our time, but this auction shows that he was also a brilliant collector and interior designer. His style and vision have always stirred passion, and the public response over the last three days is an affirmation that his influence lives on. The family is particularly pleased that it was able to make a significant contribution to two important causes and to the Fashion Institute of Technology for a scholarship which they hope will encourage young people to enter the field of design.”
Seventeen lots of original Versace clothing, including theatre costumes and ready-to-wear, brought a total of $116,950 to benefit three selected charities: the National Center for Victims of Crimes, PAX, and an endowed scholarship named for Gianni Versace at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The top-selling fashion lot was a black evening dress in heavy lycra net effect, tulle and lace bodice once worn by Stephanie Seymour brought $12,000, far exceeding the high estimate of $7000. Along with the clothing, nine lots of sketches illustrating costume designs that Versace created for the stage were included in the charitable portion of the sale. A group of 12 costume sketches designed by Gianni Versace for the Maurice Béjart ballet company, originally estimated at $1000/1500, brought a final selling price of $11,400.
Furniture, pillows, throws, and lamps which incorporated original Versace designs drew tremendous attention throughout the sale, selling at multiples far beyond their presale estimates. Buyers responded to the ample embellishments and signature patterns in bold colors to drive prices over seven, eight, and nine times their high estimates. A suite of upholstered seat furniture in Versace’s leopard-print “Wild Miami” fabric inspired bidders to raise the selling price to $77,800 from a high estimate of $8000. Another suite of Versace-designed furniture, this one done in a cotton velvet “Wild Paisley” pattern, estimated at $7/9000, kept the bidding going until it reached $66,875.
A pair of upholstered armchairs with ottomans covered in a mix of Chinese-inspired Versace fabrics were favorites with buyers, who drove the selling price to $75,500 over a high estimate of $8000. Bidders who wanted to bring home a piece of design history had their choice of groups of pillows, throws, and coverlets which all sold for far beyond their presale estimates. Sets of pillows sold for over three, four, and five times their high estimates, with a group of eleven cotton velvet and cotton satin duchesse fringed pillows in Versace’s ‘Portrait Gallery’ pattern bringing over 8 times their high estimate to reach $9600. Two Empire style ormolu-mounted parcel-gilt and mahogany benches upholstered in Versace’s “Baroquesque” pattern that carried presale high estimates of $3500 each did extremely well, bringing $20,300 and $13,200 respectively.
Other nineteenth century paintings that were highlights of the sale were Sophie Rude’s oil on canvas “The Death of Cenchirias” that set a record for the artist at auction when active bidding drive its final price to $181,750, over its presale high estimate of $150,000. John William Godward’s “Chloris, or a Summer Rose” surpassed its high estimate of $100,000 to bring $148,000. These paintings reflect Versace’s interest in classical, mythological and allegorical subjects.
Gianni Versace’s appreciation for the art of mosaics and micromosaics was reflected in his outstanding collection of refined and vibrantly colored examples. Among the top lots from the auction were an Italian micromosaic plaque depicting the shield of Achilles that sold for $154,250, over five times its presale high estimate of $30,000, and two Italian micromosaic plaques from the early 19th century, estimated at $80,000, that sold to eager bidders for a final price of $104, 250. An Italian mosaic of Sibyl from the early 19th century surpassed its high estimate of $50,000 to sell for $87,000.
Versace’s collection of eight bronze figural sculptures by the modern French artist Ferdinand Parpan sold for record-setting prices. The top-selling sculpture, a bronze figure of a man smoking a pipe, set a new record for the artist at auction when it sold for $10,800, more than double its high estimate of $5000. Other bronze sculptures of musicians reached remarkable prices of double and triple their high estimates. The grand total for the Parpan lots reached $61,500, exceeding the total presale high estimate of $24,000.
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