Classic Week at Christie’s London (2-11 July), which spanned nine days and 16 sales, closed with a total of £78,978,625 / $99,156,100 (including buyer’s premium). The sales saw global interest, with bidders registering from more than 40 countries across five continents.
Thousands of visitors came to Christie’s King Street to view the extraordinary breadth of objects on offer, which spanned Antiquities, Decorative Arts, Old Master Paintings, Old Master Drawings, Books & Manuscripts and British & European Art.
The Classic Week evening sales on 4 July achieved a combined total of £48,314,125. Leading the series was Masterpieces from a Rothschild Collection, which realised £23,823,375, selling 98 per cent by lot and 94 per cent by value.
The top price of the sale, which offered more than 50 lots with exceptional provenance, was achieved by David Tenier’s Déjeuner au jambon (above), an excellent example of the tavern genre that the artist developed during the 1630s. The painting, which was executed on copper plate in 1648, soared past its high estimate of £1,200,000 to achieve £4,746,250, setting a new world record price for the artist at auction.
Another standout work from the collection, a Venetian gilt-bronze and rock-crystal casket from around 1600, was sold for £731,250 — more than four times its high estimate.
The Exceptional Sale totalled £9,557,500, and was led by a 3,000-year-old stone bust of Tutankahamen, the most famous Egyptian pharaoh, which sold for £4,746,250.
Other notable results included a George III carved mahogany wine-cooler, after a design by Robert Adam and attributed to Sefferin Nelson, which more than doubled its low estimate to achieve £287,250; and a pair of etched halberds for the bodyguard of the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias (above) from the collection of The Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild. These halberds, which were offered at auction for the first time, cruised past their high estimate of £12,000 before realising £225,000.
Bernado Bellotto’s view of Venice produced the highest price of The Old Masters Evening Sale, which totalled £14,933,250. Based on a prototype by Canaletto for the 3rd Duke of Bolton, this notable early work of about 1738, which shows The Molo with three of the most celebrated buildings in the heart of Venice, more than doubled its low estimate at £2,771,250.
The sale also saw a new auction record for a work by Claude de Jongh. The Dutch painter’s landscape, Old London Bridge (1650), achieved £1,091,250 after several minutes of bidding. According to Clementine Sinclair, Head of Old Masters Evening Sale, this strong result reflects ‘the demand for rare works that have not been on the market for generations’.
Elsewhere, there were notable results for Personification of the five senses by Petrus Straverenus, which more than doubled its high estimate at £175,000; for Edward Lear’s watercolour of Parnassus, Greece, which achieved more than three times its low estimate at £62,500; and for a clay tablet boasting the first known recorded writing system by man from Mesopotamia’s late Uruk period (4000-3100 BC), which sold for £62,500.
A rare Romano-British bronze licking dog statue from the 4th century AD realised £137,500 — more than four times its low estimate. This statue, which is the only surviving intact example ever found in Britain, was the rarest object from a complete hoard of Roman bronze artefacts uncovered by metal detectorists in England in 2017.
Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, the first scientific book to propose that the sun was at the centre of our universe, fetched £587,250, while Julio Romero de Torres’ The Slave, a portrait of the actress Elena Pardo painted c. 1925-29, cruised past its high estimate of £30,000 before realising £299,250.