Titian painting fetches record $16.9 million at auction

Thu Jan 27, 2011 5:17pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A 450-year-old Madonna and child painting sold for a record $16.9 million on Thursday at a Sotheby's sale of Old Master works that saw especially strong prices for religious-themed works.

"A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria" by Renaissance master Titian was the top-priced work during a week of Old Master sales at Sotheby's and rival Christie's, carrying a hefty $15 million to $20 million estimate.

The circa 1560 oil on canvas, one of only a handful of multi-figured compositions by Titian remaining in private hands, went to a European collector bidding on the telephone. The final price was $16,882,500 including commission.

Sotheby's officials said they were "delighted" with the results of the session, at which 75 percent of the lots on offer found buyers.

George Wachter, worldwide co-chairman of Old Master paintings, cited the record prices achieved by the Titian and another half dozen artists.

"Interest came from all over the world and all over the field, the trade, private collectors and institutions," he said. "Clearly, this is a very strong market, particularly for masterworks."

The Venetian school work was Titian's most important to hit the auction block in two decades, and had not been seen publicly in 30 years until recent exhibitions in Paris, London and Amsterdam.

It has only changed hands six times during its four and one-half century life, Sotheby's said.   Continued...

<p>Auctioneer Henry Wyndham (L, at podium) takes bids on Titian's (formally known as Tiziano Vecellio) painting "The Madonna and Child With Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria" during Sotheby's Important Old Masters Paintings sale in New York, January 27, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>