Records fall as NY art auctions take in $170 million

Fri Feb 1, 2013 8:52pm EST
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three paintings each sold for more than $10 million and artists' records fell as auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's collectively moved some $170 million in Old Master and Renaissance art this week.

The auctions, including a big-ticket sale at Christie's dedicated to Renaissance art, featured works by Batoni, Rubens, Gainsborough and Botticelli.

A rare, circular-format oil portrait by Fra Bartolommeo, "The Madonna and Child," which dates to the mid-1490s, achieved the week's highest price.

Still set in its original frame, the painting from a private collection fetched $12,962,500 including commission - in the middle of Christie's pre-sale estimate range of $10 million to $15 million.

The top painting in Sotheby's' week of sales, which will wrap up with a small Saturday session, was Pompeo Girolamo Batoni's "Susanna and the Elders." The 1751 work had been estimated to sell for $6 million to $9 million but soared to $11,394,500.

"Works by major hands like Batoni, Fragonard and Memling sold incredibly well and collectors understand that these rare works do not come to the market often," said George Wachter, Sotheby's worldwide co-chairman of Old Master paintings, and Old Master New York department head Christopher Apostle in a statement.

"There was tremendous international bidding throughout the week, particularly from Russian collectors," they added.

Sotheby's took in more than $80 million, shy of the low $89 million pre-sale estimate.   Continued...