Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sotheby's on Alma-Tadema

Have you missed me? I have been out of commission for a while. I was in Florida for a few weeks helping take care of the Padre, including moving him to a new retirement community, and I came back to Brooklyn with the worst cold and sinus infection, which I still haven't been able to completely shake yet. No's high time bklynbiblio was back in circulation.

Yesterday I received one of my usual email updates from Sotheby's auction house, but this one was a little different. It included a link to a video which they describe as follows: "Please join Benjamin Doller, Polly Sartori and our dedicated team of specialists as they explore the artists and genres that define one of the richest and most varied centuries in art history and reveal highlights from our recent, record-breaking $62 million sale that included Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's The Finding of Moses." The video is quite interesting because they discuss closely some of the highlights from the successful sale of 19th-century European art that was held in NYC this past November 4th. You can watch the video by clicking here. The video of course is being used as a marketing tool because there are future auctions for more 19th-century pictures coming up, and Sotheby's wants to maintain the momentum as much as possible. But the video is still worth watching because it provides a little insight into the business of selling art.

The biggest surprise and best part of the November 4th sale was the Alma-Tadema painting The Finding of Moses, an image of which is above. Even though the subject is from the Old Testament, the Dutch-born British artist painted it with the linear precision and attention to detail for which he was well known. At the same time, the subject is also exotic, so it would have appealed to Victorian audiences because it was a Biblical subject, but tapped into the current Aesthetic Movement taste for Classicial and Orientalist works. The picture was expected to sell for between $3-$5 million, and wound up selling for just under a record-breaking $36 million. That's a lot of money not just for Alma-Tadema but for any Victorian-themed painting. If nothing else, it helps make us aware that there are people out there willing to pay money for Victorian pictures, an auction sale category that at one time was considered the laughing stock of the art world. Look who's laughing now!

1 comment:

Donald's Garden said...

---reading this while fondly glancing over at my poster, that hangs in my office, of 'Spring' by Alma-Tadema. :)