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RECENT ART SALES
* We live in an age of wonders,' wrote Bachaumont, that keen chronicler of manners and events in Paris during the eighteenth century. This somewhat trite phrase to-day hardly conveys the impression which the art sales of the last season or so leave on the minds of those who follow such matters with close interest. One thinks of the Spitzer season' in Paris, of the 'Dudley season,' of the 'Lyne Stephens season' at Christie's; but all such memories
and there are many others—are completely eclipsed by that of the season now closed.
Formerly, big art sales occurred only at long and irregular intervals, often years in length; for the last quarter of a century at least every year has had its important sale in London or in Paris. But within the last few months there have been great art sales, not only in London and Paris, but in Berlin and New York. Everywhere 'records' have been broken, and no day has been without its surprises : the air, in fact, has been charged with them. Huge totals and correspondingly huge individual prices have been the order of the day.
In Paris alone four sales have produced over a million sterling. In London one sale has reached a third of that amount. In every sense the Doucet sale in Paris is without precedent. The San Donato total was upwards of 600,0001., but the various sales were spread over nearly twenty years, in Rome, Paris and elsewhere; and for all practical purposes M. Jacques Doucet's collection may rank as having produced the record' total, a distinction held by that of Hamilton Palace for thirty years. The Yerkes sale in New York two years ago eclipsed the previous
record' which had held good in the New World for nearly a quarter of a century; whilst in Germany the Weber sale stands supreme as regard extent and total.
It will, I think, be interesting and instructive to give a list of some of the great collections which have reached six figures; the list could be doubled by adding those which have just fallen a little short of that limit. It should be pointed out that in France there is an auction charge of 10 per cent. and in Germany one of 5 per cent. on auction sales, in each case payable by the purchaser; so that, for instance, the actual amount of money spent at the Doucet sale was 610,9181. 319
The great sales of the last forty years may be tabulated as follows:
Sale and Date
Jacques Doucet, Paris, 1912 .
, 1912 ·
357 2213 2820 3369 1545
198 2628 354 313 525 272 386 594 1249 432 423 176 205 1554
555,380 397,562 379,314 364,314 358,499 305,335 241,036 219,525 218,826 164,530 157,761 153,891 141,404 141,004 138,118 138,058 132,021 106,282 103,000 101,320
3 3 6 9 3 3 2 2 11
Big totals appeal perhaps more to the multitude than to the individual; and all great sales include objects, and realise prices, which cannot possibly interest everybody, even those who make art collecting a serious business. In leaving totals for individual prices, a bewildering array of figures could easily be compiled. During the last quarter of a century about forty pictures have been sold at auction in London at prices which vary from about 10,0001. to over twice that amount. A list of these would be too long to quote here, but I think it will be instructive to give a graduated list of what may be described as 'top' auction prices of the last season or two in England and abroad :
Recent Highest Prices.
· The actual total of the Yerkes sale of pictures, tapestries, and of the remaining contents, sold on the premises, of his house in Fifth Avenue, New York, amounted to £441,589.
• This sale was only of the residue of Mr. Charles J. Wertheimer's collection, or stock, at the time of his death. In the case of Groves v. Read, heard before Mr. Justice Neville, it was stated that private sales "up to £300,000” had been made before the public auction.
Recent Highest Prices-continued.
Artist and Subject
£ H. Raeburn, Portrait of Mrs. R. Williamson May 1911 23,415 Do, Portrait of Mrs. Hay
May 1912 22,260 Rembrandt, Old Woman Plucking a Fowl
Levaigneur 19,800 H. Regnault, Salomé
Carcano 19,200 Mme Vigée Lebrun, Portrait of Princesse Talleyrand
Doucet 16,000 H. Raeburn, Portrait of Lady J. Traill
May 1911 14,700 Rembrandt, Portrait of the Artist's Sister
Caroano 14,600 Do. Young Girl holding a Medal Hoe, New York 14,100 J. B. C. Corot, La Solitude
Carcano 14,000 Mantegna (or Carpaccio), Pietà
Abdy, 1911 12,915 C. Troyon, Going to Market
Yerkes 12,100 Botticelli, Life of St. Zenobius
Abdy 11,340 Rembrandt, Portrait of a Rabbi
Yerkes 10,280 F. H. Drouais, L'éducation fait tout
The physiognomy,' so to speak, of the collectors whose sales have rendered this year so famous is curious. We have been called upon to witness no dismantling of ancient and historic houses, such as that of Hamilton Palace. All the collections have been formed within our own times—a fact which gives an especial emphasis to some of the big profits.' That some of these collections should be dispersed may be a matter of regret, but in this connexion it is impossible not to recall the clause in Edmond de Goncourt's will in which he says : ‘My wish is that my drawings, my prints, my curiosities, my books-in a word, these things of art which have been the joy of my life-shall not be consigned to the cold tomb of a museum and subjected to the stupid glance of the careless passer-by; but I require that they shall all be dispersed under the hammer, so that the pleasure which the acquiring of each one of them has given me shall be given again, in each case, to some inheritor of my own tastes.'
How far these or analogous sentiments may have influenced those whose collections have so recently been knocked down' it is impossible to say. Two collectors–M. Doucet and the Marquise L. Carcano-have witnessed their own triumphs. M. Jacques Doucet, who, in the language of the sportsman, 'holds the world's record' in the way of art sales, is the architect of his own fortune, which he erected out of his business in Paris as an outfitter. Perhaps the proceeds of this sale will in part go to develop his unique library of books on art and archaeologynow numbering about 90,000 volumes—which is open to students, and which bids fair to become of the highest value to all concerned in art and allied subjects.
Of the Marquise Landolfo Carcano much is known. The late Albert Wolff wrote a well-informed article in the Figaro on the founder of this collection when it was exhibited in 1884, for the benefit of the poor, at the Georges-Petit Gallery (where it was sold), and no romance could be more fascinating than the story of this lady's career. A prominent figure in certain circles of Paris during the last years of the Second Empire, the owner of a splendid mansion, Madame de Cassan (as she was then) experienced the full meaning of vanitas vanitatum. Her portrait by Ricard, dated 1868, is among the artistic treasures of the Petit Palais. Of Madame Roussel and Madame Levaigneur very little is known. Concerning the latter, I have it on the best authority that a certain Paris dealer, who was anxious to examine her Rembrandt (and also perhaps to do business), wrote for permission to see the picture. His assistant duly presented himself at her house : Madame Levaigneur was waiting for him, and told him in words that could admit of no mistake, not only that he should not see the picture, but that he was not to come again under any circumstances.
M. Jean Dollfus, the owner of another fine collection, was an Alsatian millowner, who preferred to be French rather than German after the war of 1870-1, and who removed his collections to Paris. Finally, and to come nearer home, Mr. J. E. Taylor was the proprietor of the Manchester Guardian, and the first public announcement of his sale was made, of all places in the world, in a Berlin daily paper. Mr. Charles J. Wertheimer was the eminent dealer of whom so many good stories are told of his enterprise as a collector. Mr. G. N. Stevens, whose choice collection of Barbizon pictures (sold June 14 last) included fifteen Corots, is understood to be the proprietor of the Family Herald.
Not only historically but also from the commercial point of view the Early Italian schools take precedence, for the Weber Mantegna, bought from Messrs. Dowdeswell nine years ago for 40001., realised the highest price ever paid at auction for a single picture. This season between thirty and forty Italian pictures have sold for upwards of 10001. each, and so keen is the demand for such pictures as have any claim to authenticity that collectors, paraphrasing the historic advice of the Quaker to his son, would seem to say to their dealers : 'Get them, get them cheaply if you can, but get them.' With an ever-increasing body of wealthy collectors, not only in America but on the Continent of Europe, price has long since ceased to be a matter of any moment-always, and rightly, provided that such pictures receive the 'seal' of such authorities as Mr. Berenson. A picture undeniably receives a cachet in having been in an important collection, and it may be doubted if any of the works in the following list would have realised such big prices had they appeared in anonymous sales :
Artist and Subject
Andrea Mantegna, Madonna, Child and
Judith and Dido, pair
Do. Pt. of a young man
Do. Landscape with figures
Do. St. Georges-Majeur
Do. La Salute [Four other pictures by this artist realised
upwards of 10001. each at the Doucet
Do. History of Joseph
Do. Holy Trinity
Young Lord Napoleon .
In the matter of Dutch, Flemish, and Early German schools, Rembrandt overshadows all the others. The sale last year of the Marquess of Lansdowne's Mill for 100,0001. was followed in May last by Lord Feversham selling privately bis Portrait of a Dutch Merchant for about 50,0001. Another sensation was created in June, when it transpired that a portrait of the artist's father, sold at Christie's on the 9th of December last for 210 guineas, had been purchased by a well-known Hungarian collector for something like 18,0001. Its authenticity was recognised, or rather suspected, at Christie's by one of our most eminent and accomplished art critics, for whom it was purchased; it was sent to Professor Hauser, of Berlin, to be cleaned, and was pronounced by Dr. Bode not only to be genuine but to be the original of one in a private collection in London. The Old Woman Plucking a Fowl, which realised the auction record of 19,8001. in Paris, was bought by M. Kleinberger (who also bought the Weber Mantegna): a generous layer of repaint, dirt and varnish had preserved the original painting, and this