at christie's May 12, 1997
by Stewart Waltzer
May 13, 1997 -- Breeding will out. This is to say that the Loeb collection with its impeccable provenance brought top prices but without the sense of excess that characterized the overheated market of the late `80s.
Edouard Manet's self portrait (c. 1878), one of two that he painted, brought $17 million at the hammer. It is an excellent picture and more than justifies its price. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's sexy dancer in pink tights, Danseuse assise aux bas roses (1890), brought $13.2 million, substantially above its presale estimate of $8 million to $10 million. It was a stunning painting and good-looking girls always sell well. Just ask Madame Cezanne. With a reported estimate of $25 million, Madame Cezanne au fauteuil jaune (1888-90), brought only $21 million from the Swiss dealer Ernst Beyler. Still, one suspects that living with Paul was no jour à la plage, so maybe she had good cause for her visage de tristesse.
If the less than propitious sale of Madame Cezanne caused Christie's any dismay, the house had the good grace not to show it. Every other important picture finished within or above the estimated range. The Cezanne landscape, Les toits de l'Estaque (1883-85), sold for $11.5 million. His palette-knife portrait of L'Oncle Dominique (c. 1866) went for $2.6 million. The Renoir Baigneuse debout (1887) sold for $3.9 million. The Gauguin Nature morte au coloquintes (1889) sold for $3.1 million. The Tissot La cheminée (c. 1869), a ravishing picture of a young woman in 18th-century costume, sold for $1.7 million, probably a record for the artist. On the other hand, the late Monet Iris mauves (1914-17) brought $3.5 million at the top of its estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million, which is not a lot of money for a six-foot-high Nymphéas period picture, and reflected Christie's perception of the diminished Monet market.
The bidding was strong, but not frantic and Christopher Burge ran the sale with grace and charm. Well why not? $85 million is a decent night's work.
Total volume at the hammer was $84,295,000. Thirty-one percent of the lots (9) failed to exceed the low estimate at the hammer. Twenty-four percent of the lots (7) exceeded the low estimate but not the high. Fifty percent of the lots (13) exceeded the high estimate. One lot was passed (three percent). Prices given here do not include the auction house's commission, which is 15 percent on the first $50,000 and 10 percent on the remainder.