By KELLY CROW at THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
A Greek financier based in London paid Christie’s $29.1 million on Tuesday for a Pablo Picasso painting that was once caught up in a daring World War II-era rescue.
Dimitri Mavrommatis, a longtime collector of French porcelain who also keeps a home in Paris, outbid at least seven rivals for Picasso’s “Seated Woman, Blue Robe.” Christie’s only expected it to sell for up to $13 million.
Christie’sPablo Picasso’s 1939 “Seated Woman, Blue Robe” sold to a Greek financier for $29.1 million at Christie’s in London on Tuesday.
The painting’s history may have added to its allure: Picasso painted the angular, indigo-hued portrait of his girlfriend Dora Maar in late 1939 and sent it to his dealer Paul Rosenberg in Bordeaux. When the Nazis occupied parts of France a few months later, soldiers confiscated the Jewish dealer’s art and sent “Woman” to the German Embassy in Paris with plans to forward it on to Adolf Hitler’s art depot in Moravia.
At some point in all this shuffling, members of the French Resistance slipped in and rescued the painting. “Woman” was eventually returned to Mr. Rosenberg.
“Woman” also capped Christie’s $227.1 million evening sale of Impressionist and modern art — a total that easily surpassed the house’s $185.4 million minimum sale target.
video bonus : Got a spare £12 million? Buy this Picasso One of Picasso’s most celebrated paintings ‘Jeune Fille Endormie’ is up for sale. Gemma Haines from Reuters reports.
Picasso aside, the Christie’s sale owed much of its adrenaline to a group of 40 pieces coming from the estate of Swiss dealer Ernst Beyeler, who founded the Art Basel fair in 1970. Mr. Beyeler’s $72.4 million grouping included Picasso’s $17.3 million “Bust of Francoise” from 1946; Paul Gauguin’s $10.4 million “The Valley” from 1892; and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s $8.2 million “The Source (Lengthy Nude)” from 1902.
Mr. Beyeler built his reputation by persuading collectors that he had a knack for spotting modern masterpieces, and collectors at Christie’s still seemed reassured. One bidder even paid $466,271 for the dealer’s desk, a Spanish walnut and fruitwood trestle table that had been priced to sell for up to $19,560.
But bidders balked when it came to Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” a 1914-17 work that Mr. Beyeler bought in 1981. Christie’s priced it to sell for at least $26 million but it got no takers and became the night’s biggest casualty. An Edgar Degas ballerina scene, “Before the Big Show (Two Dancers),” also failed to sell.
Overall, 76 of the sale’s 92 offerings found takers, helping the auction house achieve 80% of the sale’s total potential value.
Picasso still rules this segment of the marketplace: The University of Sydney got $21.8 million for his 1935 “Young Girl Sleeping,” over its $19 million high estimate. The school says it plans to use the proceeds to fund scientific research. Surrealism is also continuing its recent uptick, with Rene Magritte’s “Travel Souvenir” selling for $8 million.
Sotheby’s in London will counter Wednesday with its own sale of Impressionist and modern art.