€3 million Verbeeck Painting Breaks Auction Record

Frans Verbeeck’s The Mocking of Human Follies (c.1560)
Photo: Courtesy Dorotheum

Frans Verbeeck’s The Mocking of Human Follies (c.1560) sold at auction last night in Vienna for a staggering €3 million, achieving an all-time record for the artist. It also marks one of the highest selling prices ever achieved at an Austrian auction.

The Verbeeck masterpiece caused a sensation at Dorotheum’s Old Master Paintings sale, which took place last night at the Viennese headquarters of the auction house. According to the Austrian newspaper The Local, the painting had a presale estimate of between €900,000 to €1,200,000, and was sold to an unnamed Flemish bidder after a hard-fought bidding war.

The Mocking of Human Follies is one of the most important works from the Verbeeck family studio, a dynasty of Flemish artists that include Frans’ brother Jan, as well as their sons. The authentication of the artworks painted by the Verbeeck family has always been a complicated issue, given that they worked together in the same workshop.

However, according to the Dorotheum auction catalogue, The Mocking of Human Follies has been attributed specifically to Frans Verbeeck by several experts in a number of art journals and exhibition catalogues published from the 1980’s onwards.

The painting, a satire of human foolishness in a style reminiscent of fellow Flemish Old Masters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel, depicts a multitude of characters engaged in bizarre and nonsensical activities, illustrating the dangers and joys of human folly.

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