Christies winds up belated summer auction season with £21.2m Classic Art sale led by £4m Rubens

The Almanac Hours by the Monypenny Master of the Monypenny Breviary, sold for £1.6m © Christie's

It was a hard act to follow. After Sothebys slick £150m Rembrandt to Richter multi-camera livestream auction the previous evening, Christies rounded off Londons Covid-restricted art market season on Wednesday night with a more traditional evening sale of high-end pictures and objects.

Christies less catchily titled Classic Art Evening Sale: Antiquity to 20th Century was, like Sothebys offering, a “cross category” selection that was, technically, a live auction. But only about 20 socially distanced individuals could attend in the saleroom, leaving the rest of the world to watch on a Christies website that at a time of accelerated digitalisation is beginning to show its age.

The major auction houses had cancelled their regular June and July evening sales in London. Christies chose to include the cream of its Modern and contemporary consignments in its ambitious new four-venue One auction, leaving the companys Old Master, silver, decorative arts, prints and book specialists to cobble together the best of the pre-20th century rest for this catch-all evening event.

“Christies put everything into the One sale,” says Todd Levin, an art adviser based in New York, who buys both contemporary and period pieces for clients. “They were out of gas.”

But having built relationships with collectors for more than 250 years, Christies is always capable of pulling something exceptional out of its hat.

Death of Lucretia (around 1510), attributed to Antonio Lombardo © Christie's

The most magical piece in this sale was probably a superb 16th century marble relief of the Death of Lucretia, thought to be by Antonio Lombardo, a leading member of the family of artists who classicised sculpture in Venice during the renaissance.

Freshly discovered in a European private collection and estimated at £500,000-£800,000, the hitherto-unknown relief was thought to have been from a series of sculptures of classical heroines made in about 1510 for the Duke of Ferrara, for whom Antonio Lombardo worked as court sculptor for about a decade. The last Lombardo piece to feature on the open market was a spectacular relief of Dido, Queen of Carthage, discovered back in 1988 by the Dorset-based auctioneers Dukes, who sold it for a record £275,000.

“Everything about it was great,” says Stuart Lochhead, a London-based sculpture dealer, of the Christies Lombardo. “You never see these things come on the market. The faces had a lot of emotion and it was in amazing condition. It was from the top level of that world,” adds Lochhead, who was one the socially distanced attendees in the saleroom.

The sculpture drew serious interest from at least four bidders before it was eventually knocked down to a private client on a telephone for £3.7m with fees.

Rubenss Portrait of a young woman, half-length, holding a chain (1603-1606), painted when the young artist was either in Italy or Spain, was also billed by Christies as a “discovery,” but had recently been shown on long-term loan at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. At £4m to £6m, this was the most highly valued lot in the sale. For all the paintings technical brilliance, it remained, like much of Rubenss output, not a particularly appealing image and sold to a telephone bidder just under estimate at £3.9m (with fees), albeit the top price of the sale.

Rubens's Portrait of a young woman, half-length, holding a chain, sold for £3.9m with fees © Christie&#03Read More – Source