Small sizes

[29 Mar 2013]

 

Friday is tops! Every other Friday, Artprice offers you the bid ranking for each category. This week: the top ten sales prices for small-format art in 2012.

Major works by the most coveted names in old and modern art have been selling for many millions of dollars. Faced with these kinds of prices, the world’s biggest buyers, dealers, collectors and museums occasionally find themselves fighting over small works. All the more so because the museum quality of a piece does not necessarily depend on its size, and the modest dimensions of an oil or drawing do not automatically mean it is a minor work. The importance of its subject matter and its artistic quality can result in a work measuring 20 cm or 30 cm selling for over $10 m dollars. Here is a list of ten smaller pieces that played with the big boys in 2012.

Top 10 : the top ten sales prices for small-format art in 2012.

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 RAPHAEL $42675600 Head of a Young Apostle () 12/05/2012 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
2 Paul CÉZANNE $17000000 Joueur de cartes (1892/96) 05/01/2012 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
3 Pablo PICASSO $12000000 Le Viol (1940) 11/08/2012 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
4 REMBRANDT VAN RIJN $11758500 A man in a gorget and cap () 07/03/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)
5 Pablo PICASSO $8750000 Le repos (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1932) 05/01/2012 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
6 Francis BACON $8250000 « Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne » () 11/13/2012 (Sotheby’s NEW YORK NY)
7 Georges BRAQUE $7124400 L’Oliveraie (1907) 02/08/2012 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
8 Joachim Antonisz WTEWAEL $6427980 Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan (1610) 07/03/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)
9 Francis BACON $6228400 « Study for Self-Portrait » () 06/26/2012 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
10 Lucian FREUD $5916980 Naked Portrait II (c.1974) 06/27/2012 (Christie’s LONDON)

Raphaël: over $4,000 per cm2
In 2012, Sotheby’s had the honour and privilege of achieving a new record for Italian Renaissance master RAPHAEL (1483-1520). They sold an exceptional drawing of the head of a young apostle, considered one of the three best drawings by this artist to be auctioned over the last 20 years. From the famous collection of the Duke of Devonshire, this study in black chalk for La Transfiguration (1518 – 1520) carried a Sotheby’s estimate of between £10 m and £15 m. It finally went under the hammer for £26.5 m ($42.67 m). This represents a new pound sterling record for the artist. The hammer price was the highest achieved by Sotheby’s in London in 2012 and this sale rockets Raphaël to first place in this category (works measuring 37.5 cm x 27.8 cm). It is likely to be a long time before another work of such quality comes along to dislodge Head of a Young Apostle from its top spot.

The most expensive pieces of modern small format art
After the Pommes and the Montagne Sainte Victoire, one of Paul CÉZANNE‘s most emblematic subjects is the Joueur de cartes. On 1st May 2012, Christie’s offered for sale a watercolour of a card player, the best study of this subject ever to appear in a auction rooms. This work on paper measuring 46.7 cm x 30.5 cm rapidly changed hands for $17 m, hardly a surprising amount in view of the fame of this series and the recent purchase of a version of the Joueurs de Cartes by the Qatari royal family for the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha (sold in a private transaction for a reputed $250 million). This Joueur de cartes takes Cézanne to second place in our list, ahead of Pablo PICASSO who claims two places in the Top 10. In 2012, six works by Picasso broke the $10 m barrier, including a small format piece measuring less than 50 cm: Le Viol, 1940, $12 m, 8 November 2012, Sotheby’s New York.
Picasso’s Cubist disciple, Georges BRAQUE, also achieved a new record with his small format piece L’Oliveraie, a tawny-coloured oil on panel painted in 1907 (38.29 cm x 46 cm). Oils on canvas from this period have become so rare that, despite its small dimensions, L’Oliveraie is now Braque’s third-highest priced work after two paintings each over a metre in size.

Back to basics
Behind Raphaël, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, REMBRANDT VAN RIJN takes 4th place in our chart. The creator of Ronde de nuit (1642) – one of the most famous paintings in history thanks to its chiaroscuro effect – also painted many portraits in the course of his career. One of these, A man in a gorget and cap, an oil on panel measuring 39.79 cm x 29.4 cm came up for auction on 3 July 2012 at Christie’s London.
Despite its modest size, this superbly executed portrait was chosen by Christie’s to decorate the catalog cover of its prestigious Old Master and British Paintings sale. And with good reason – portraits by Rembrandt not only constitute extreme rarities on the secondary market but this portrait is a particularly well-known work that has been very well documented since it was acquired by Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza in the late 1920s. This superb three-quarter portrait of a man in a feathered hat with its masterful use of chiaroscuro was given an estimate of £8 – £12 m. In the end it failed to realize its low estimate, but sold for £7.5 m ($11.7 m), making this little Dutch painting the second-highest selling painting at the Christie’s sale after the world record achieved by the artist John CONSTABLE (The Lock, £20 m or $31.356 m).The third Old Master on the list, behind Raphaël and Rembrandt, is Joachim Antonisz WTEWAEL (c.1566 – c.1638). He is known for paintingmythological scenes on a small scale as a result of his technique ofworking with oil on copper. His new record is for a work measuring 18.2 cm x 13.5 cm, Mars and Venus surprised by Vulcan, which sold for £4.1 m($6.42 m) on 3 July 2012 at Christie’s London.

The youngest artist in this category, Francis BACON (1909 – 1992) landed no fewer than ten sales in excess of the million mark in 2012. Year after year, this artist has proven to be one of the best and soundest investments in the Western art market, to the extent that his small 30 cm canvasses change hands for between $3 m as against $9 m for well-executed portraits. In this Top listing, his study for a portrait, Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne, follows hot on the heels of a work by Pablo Picasso.