Indicating a favorable direction for art prices this season, a large auction house has just wrapped up its sale of Old Masters paintings that brought in millions of dollars. The sale, much touted in the news before it even began, started on December 8th and saw many paintings that had not been on display for decades. These paintings, known of but little seen in public, were created by some of the world’s most famous European Old Masters and set the art world abuzz in conversation about just how much these paintings might sell for.
Once these important and often hectic bidding wars finished it was clear that the sale was a tremendous indication of the enduring value of art, both monetary and culturally. The two most exceptional sales were of a van Dyck self portrait and a Rembrandt. The van Dyck, painted in 1640 towards the end of the artist’s life, was battled over by nine bidders and went for an excess of $13 million. The Rembrandt half-length painting of a man was painted in 1658 had gone unseen by the public for 40 years and sold for an excess of $33 million. This purchase made by an anonymous bidder broke the previous record for a sale of Rembrandt by nearly $4 million.
These two paintings were already in the record books of these artists' catalog raisonnés, but a painting by Dutch artist Cesar Boetius van Everdingen was previously undocumented and few experts even knew of its existence. This painting ultimately went for just under $2 million, 16 times the presale estimate. This is reason enough for lay art collectors or those who have inherited artwork to seek a sound appraisal. There are still old masters paintings that are yet undocumented and unpublished. As improbable as it seems this example gives hope to us all and should compel those with art to get a quality appraisal.
Mafia Blamed For Alleged Burning of Caravaggio Painting
On a much less hopeful note for the preservation of cultural wealth it has been reported that a Caravaggio painting entitled Nativity With Saints Francis and Lawrence has been destroyed by the Mafia in Italy. The painting, stolen from a church in Palermo in 1969, had been pursued by police and art lovers alike since its theft. News of the painting’s fate has just broken thanks to information given by a Mafia informant and the news is unfortunate to say the least. It seems the painting was stored by the Mafia in a barn and had sustained a great amount of damage from rats and pigs. The painting was burned in order to cover the crime syndicate’s trail, an unfortunate fate for such a beautiful piece. Its alleged worth was estimated close to $30 million.
Chicago residents can see a beautiful and safe Caravaggio painting entitled The Supper at Emmaus at the Art Institute of Chicago, blocks away from MIR’s office on Michigan Avenue.
Hitler Book Rediscovered in GI’s Library
Proving that hidden wealth may be as close as your bookshelf, an Ohio veteran of the Second World War has finally returned a book of art once held in Hitler’s private collection. The former soldier, John Pistone, took the book from one of Hitler’s Bavarian homes in the Alps as a war trophy and has only recently brought his ownership of the item to the government's attention.
The book is of particular significance because it is a collection of images of pieces of art that Hitler ultimately wanted to collect for his “Fuhrermuseum” planned in Linz, Hitler's hometown in Austria. The book owned by Pistone is one of a 13 part collection, part of which has already been returned by a Dallas based foundation that brokers such handovers. Pistone’s prized book is also being returned to Germany by the U.S. Department of State voluntarily, where Pistone believes the piece belongs.
Possession of this type of treasure is not as rare as some might think. Millions of Americans fought in the Second World War, and many looted treasures have surfaced over the years. As this account proves, they continue to surface. Washington-based lawyer Thomas Kline notes that it is “really important that as people go through their attics and they find things that grandpa brought home, people are aware that something as simple as a book of pictures could have a cultural significance.” This statement reaffirms the importance of bringing questionable or mysterious pieces to a research-oriented appraiser in order to answer those important questions and hopefully clear up a family mystery or two.
Written and Researched by: Justin Bergquist
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
Principal Appraiser and Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Bearak, Michael. “Hitler’s Art Book Found on Veteran’s Bookshelf,” on Digitaljournal.com
“Exceptional Self Portrait by Sir Anthony van Dyck Sells for a Record US$13,521,704,” on Artdaily.com
“Rembrandt Painting Fetches $33,210,855- A Record Price at Christie’s Old Master Sale,” on Artdaily.com
Owen, Richard. “Lost Caravaggio Painting ‘was Burnt by Mafia,’” on TimesOnline.co.uk.