Brian Sewell was a curmudgeonly art critic. No fan of Contemporary art, his collection was offered by Christie’s this Fall. The results, recounted by the FT’s Melanie Girlis, suggest that his taste had more clout than previously suspected:
Christie’s five-hour, 248-lot auction of works amassed by the legendary British art critic Brian Sewell sold for a total £3m hammer (£3.7m with premium, est about £2m) on September 27. Highlights included the surprise top lot of the day, the black chalk “Dido reclining, asleep” by Daniele da Volterra (1509-1566), which sold for £660,000 (£797,000 with premium, est £100,000-£150,000). “Ophelia” by William Quiller Orchardson made a healthy £35,000 (£43,750 with premium, est. £10,000-£15,000) and works by Eliot Hodgkin, one of Sewell’s favourite artists, fared well.
The sale was 90 per cent sold by lot, but two major disappointments were by the 17th-century Utrecht artist Matthias Stomer, whom Christie’s catalogue describes as “consistently popular among collectors but unjustly overlooked by scholarship”. His “Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold”, which had the highest estimate of the sale at £400,000 to £600,000, failed to find a buyer, as did his “The Adoration of the Magi” (est. £150,000-£250,000). Stomer’s “Saint Jerome” sold ahead of expectations, however, for £300,000 (£365,000 with premium, est £100,000-£150,000).