Raphael - 'Head of a muse'

Raphael - 'Head of a muse'


Rembrandt - Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo

Rembrandt - Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo

Raphael, Rembrandt and Domenichino lead Christie's auction


The auction of Old Masters and 19th Century Art at Christie’s on 8 December 2009 realised £68,380,250 / $112,417,131 / €75,491,796 – the highest ever total for an auction of Old Masters. The sale was 65% sold by lot and 95% sold by value. Buyers (by lot) were 46% Europe, 43% Americas and 11% Asia and Middle East.

December 9th 2009, source: Christie's
The top price was paid for an extremely important drawing by Raphael which sold for £29,161,250 / $47,941,095 / €32,194,020, a world record price for any work on paper, the 2nd highest price for any Old Master painting or drawing and a world record price for the artist at auction. The drawing was executed as a study for a figure in Parnassus, one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican which was commissioned by Pope Julius II and which was executed between 1508 and 1511. This series is widely considered to be the artist’s greatest masterpiece. It was sold at public auction this evening for the first time in over 150 years and was bought by an anonymous client on the telephone.

Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo, a majestic, late portrait by Rembrandt sold for £20,201,250 / $33,210,855 / €22,302,180, a world record price for the artist at auction, and the 5th highest ever price for an Old Master sold at auction. Prior to the pre-sale exhibition at Christie's it had been unseen in public for nearly 40 years, and was last offered at auction in 1930 when it sold for £18,500. It was acquired at this evening's sale by an anonymous client bidding by telephone.

Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo is a is a tour de force painted in 1658 during one of Rembrandt's most artisitically inventive periods and at the same time as one of the most turbulent stages of his personal life. In 1658 the artist was forced to sell his house and move to a smaller studio having been declared bankrupt two years earlier. By this time Rembrandt had evolved his much celebrated late style, characterised by an increasingly bold and animated manner of execution and a masterful rendition of colour, lighting and texture. Only one other dated painting by the artist from 1658 is known to exist; the great three-quarter length Self-portrait now in the Frick Museum, New York.

A monumental painting by Domenichino, one of the most important Baroque pictures to be offered at auction for a generation, was offered at auction of the first time in over 100 years and realised £9,225,250 / $15,166,311 / €10,184,676, a world record price for the artist at auction

Saint John the Evangelist by Domenico Zampieri, called Il Domenichino (1581-1641) was probably painted for Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani or his younger brother, Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani (1564-1637), the picture was first recorded in 1621 as part of their collection in Rome. The Giustinianis were among the most important Italian art collectors of the 17th century, and the picture was one of the most significant of their collection which also included no fewer than 15 works by Caravaggio. Its importance led it to be included in most 18th century guide books and it was engraved by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Measuring almost 2.5 metres by 2 metres, it is a reinterpretation of the artist’s pendentive fresco of Saint John the Evangelist in Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome. Apparently painted soon afterwards (circa 1627-29), it displays a sculptural character which would go on to define the artist’s most celebrated masterpieces; the frescoes in the chapel of Saint Januarius in the Cathedral at Naples.


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