Getty Buys $30.5 Million Gentileschi and Smashes Artist’s Current Record

The painting was recently on loan to the Met.

Orazio Gentileschi, Danae. Photo: courtesy Sotheby's.
Orazio Gentileschi, Danae. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

A shower of golden coins rains down on a naked young woman in the newest acquisition by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The painting, titled Danae, after the mythological figure, shattered the existing auction record for 17th century Italian artist Orazio Gentileschi with a $30.5 million sale at the “Master Painting Evening Sale” at Sotheby’s New York January 28.

Despite an existing auction record set in 2007 for Gentileschi of $4.1 million, this time around a pre-sale estimate topped out at $35 million. The Getty ultimately prevailed over two other bidders interested in the work, which was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until the sale was announced in October.

According to the artnet Price Database, only one other painting by the artist has ever achieved more than $1 million at auction. In 2000, The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a landscape sold for £2.4 million ($3.6 million) at Sotheby’s London, breaking the earlier record of just 138,000 Lira ($113,463), set in 1991 at Christie’s Rome for La Madonna Allatta Gesu Bambino.

Artemisia Gentileschi, <em>Mary Magdalene</em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Magdalene. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Gentileschi’s daughter, Artemisia, was also an accomplished painter. In June 2014, her long-lost canvas Mary Magdalene In Ecstasy sold for €865,000 ($1.17 million). In addition to nearly tripling the pre-sale estimate, the sale set a new record for the artist.

Art writer Lee Rosenbaum was critical of the timing of the sale, writing on CultureGrrl, “It now appears that Danaë’s golden sojourn at the Met was an extended presale exhibition.” She recommends loan agreements prevent a work from being sold for several years after appearing at an institution, warning that “museums may appear to be complicit in market maneuvers and curators may see their scholarly prose instantly recycled as sales pitches.”

Orazio Gentileschi, Lot and HIs Daughters. Photo: courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Orazio Gentileschi, Lot and HIs Daughters.
Photo: courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum.

At the Getty, Danae will be reunited with Gentileschi’s Lot and His Daughters, which has been in the museum’s collection since 1998. The pair comprise two of three paintings commissioned from the artist by Genoese nobleman Giovanni Antonio Sauli. Hanging the two works side by side “not only makes art-historical sense but multiplies greatly the visual impact of both works,” said Getty director Timothy Potts in a statement quoted by Bloomberg.

Sotheby’s went all in on Danae, guaranteeing the sale to the seller, the family trust of art dealer Richard L. Feigen, and arranging an irrevocable bid prior to the auction. (Danae reportedly belonged to the original owner’s family until 1975, and Feigen acquired it after legal battle with Norton Simon in the late 1970s.)

The canvas was by far the top lot on the night, which saw an underwhelming $53.5 million in overall sales.


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