Bloomberg News

Elizabeth Taylor’s Hals Fetches $2.1 Million at Christie’s

January 26, 2012

(Adds buyer’s identity in eighth paragraph.)

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Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- A Frans Hals formerly owned by Elizabeth Taylor fetched $2.1 million at Christie’s Old Masters sale in New York.

“Portrait of a Gentleman, Half-Length, in a Black Coat” was expected to sell for $700,000 to $1 million.

Painted in the early 1630s, the work was likely a gift from the actress’s father, art dealer Francis Taylor. It hung over a fireplace in her Bel Air home. Previously thought to be by a Hals follower, it was attributed to the Dutch master in 2011, Christie’s said.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s Old Master auctions in New York are estimated to total as much as $194 million. Sotheby’s sale is tomorrow.

“The Old Masters are dirt cheap compared to modern pictures,” said New York-based art dealer Richard Feigen. “There are very few great paintings coming up anymore; people won’t sell them.”

A work with the sale’s highest presale estimate, Hans Memling’s “The Virgin Mary Nursing the Christ Child,” failed to sell. Christie’s had expected $6 million to $8 million for the small, round panel by the 15th-century Flemish master. The auction house had a financial interest in the piece, according to the catalog.

Another flop was Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s invertible portrait of a man, possibly Emperor Rudolf II, whose features are made of fruit topped by a wicker basket (inverted, it’s a still life). The work’s presale estimate was $3 million to $5 million. It was only recently attributed to the 16th-century Milan-born painter.

Henry III

Giambattista Tiepolo’s 18th-century canvas “The Arrival of Henry III at the Villa Contarini” fetched $5.9 million, near its high estimate of $6 million. Another success was Thomas de Keyser’s 1627 “Portrait of a Gentleman, Bust-Length, in a Brown Doublet and Ruff,” which surged past its $300,000 to $500,000 estimate range to sell for $1.5 million. The piece was bought for the National Gallery of Art in Washington by the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund, according to Christie’s.

One of the stars at Sotheby’s sale tomorrow is “Lucretia,” a portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder of a Roman noblewoman who committed suicide after being raped. Painted around 1510, it depicts a sad-eyed woman with one breast exposed pointing a dagger at her belly. The estimate range is $4 million to $6 million.

Startled Madonna

“The Virgin Annunciate” by Siena-born Simone Martini (circa 1284-1344) is one of the oldest artworks in the sale at Sotheby’s. Painted on gold ground, it shows a startled Madonna in a flowing deep-blue cloak. The work was part of a small devotional diptych, according to Sotheby’s. Its left part would have depicted the angel Gabriel announcing the news of the Virgin’s coming motherhood. The estimate is $3 million to $4 million.

Sotheby’s top lot by estimate is a Canaletto view of Venice expected to fetch between $5 million and $7 million. It shows the Redentore and San Giacomo churches as well as boats and gondolas on the canal in front of them. The canvas comes from the estate of Lady Irene Forte, whose late husband, Charles Forte, founded the Trusthouse Forte hotel and restaurant group.

--Editors: Jeffrey Burke, Lili Rosboch.

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at kkazakina@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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