Buyers proved willing to spend substantial sums to acquire the choicest works on offer at Christie’s Old Masters and 19th Century Sale last night, setting an all-time record for the largest total recorded at such an auction. Though only 65 percent of lots were sold, the house achieved a sold rate of 95 percent in terms of value.
A drawing by Raphael, Head of a Muse, led the strong bidding. Estimated at between £12 and £16 million, it absolutely demolished those already substantial figures as it brought £29.1 million ($47.9 million). It is now the most valuable drawing ever sold at auction and the second highest price ever paid for an Old Master painting or drawing.
Rembrandt also scored a victory on the block, as his Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (est. £18–25 million) marched steadily to £20.2 million ($33.2 million) finish, a new record for the artist, which was good enough to secure standing as the fifth highest price earned by any painting or drawing by an Old Master at auction.
Richard Knight, international co-head of Old Masters and 19th century art at Christie’s, interpreted the auction’s success as a clear sign of strength in the art market, declaring in a written statement, “Art continues to stand the test of time, and the results seen at this evening’s auction highlight that collectors will continue to act and seize opportunities to acquire works of art which appeal to them whenever the opportunity arises.”