On Wednesday, Sotheby’s sold more than 40 pieces from the collection of renowned Old Masters collector Richard L. Feigen for $16.1 million. The masterpieces, which date from the 14th through the 20th centuries, sold for more than their low estimate of $10.9 million. Richard Parkes Bonington, a 19th-century British painter, achieved a new record at the auction.
Feigen sold significant Old Masters works at auction on a regular basis before his death in January from Covid-related causes. As a result, experts had been watching the auction with bated breath. Despite the excitement, several of the auction goods at Sotheby’s failed to find buyers. With 12 paintings remaining unsold, the sale had a less-than-stellar 78 percent sell-through rate.
Feigen’s acclaimed gallery first opened in Chicago in 1957, and he eventually expanded to New York, London, and Los Angeles. He eventually built a customer list that included high-profile figures like banker Leon Black and museums like the Louvre.
The Palazzo Manolesso, a 19th-century painting by Bonington of the Grand Canal in Venice, was the top lot in the auction. Two bidders competed for the job, pushing the hammer price above the low estimate of $2 million. On the phone with Sotheby’s old masters specialist Christopher Apostle, the painting eventually sold for a record $7.4 million-plus premium to a private collector.
The previous record for a piece by Bonington was reached in 2015 when A coastal landscape with fisherfolk (ca. 1802-1828) sold for $3.8 million during a Christie’s London auction. The market for Bonington, who died before reaching the age of 30, appears to be heating up. Six paintings by the Romantic landscape painter were sold at Sotheby’s this past Monday for a total of $10.6 million, about $7 million more than their estimate of $3.7 million.
The Bonington sparked interest since Feigen was regarded for having a keen eye for important works by the artist, whose paintings are rarely seen on the market. Feigen’s gallery even assisted organizations such as the Kimball Museum of Art in Fort Worth, Texas, in acquiring pieces by Bonington.
Max Beckmann’s painting Portrait of a Turk (1926), a poorly illuminated portrait of a bearded guy holding a cigarette, was among the works sold this week by Feigen, who specialized in selling works by the German Expressionist. The picture, which was auctioned for the first time, sparked a bidding battle and was sold for $2.7 million. It sold for less than its low estimate of $2 million to a private collector in California who was on the phone with George Wachter, Sotheby’s worldwide head of Old Masters.
Other pieces by Italian Old Masters exceeded expectations but did not elicit the same level of excitement from bidders as the Bonington picture. The Return From The Flight Into Egypt (ca. 17th century) by Annibale Carracci sold for $485,000 against a low estimate of $400,000. Against an estimate of $80,000, a little painting of three singing cherubs by 15th-century painter Ambrogio di Stefano da Fossano sold for $136,800.