Newly Discovered Rubens Painting Sells for $5.1 Million During Sotheby’s Masters Week

It was the top lot in Sotheby's $31.8 million sale.

Peter Paul Rubens, Study of a Horse with a Rider. Courtesy Sotheby's.
Peter Paul Rubens, Study of a Horse with a Rider. Courtesy Sotheby's.

A newly discovered Peter Paul Rubens canvas was the highlight of Sotheby’s Masters Week in New York, fetching $5.1 million at the January 25 evening sale of “Master Paintings & Sculpture.”

Until recently, the canvas, a rare large-scale study of an animal by the Flemish artist, had been attributed to a follower of Anthony van Dyck. The painting’s true authorship came to light when details added later to the unfinished work were removed, revealing Study of a Horse to be, according to the catalogue, “a typical example of the spirited and rapidly painted oil sketches—seemingly ‘drawn by the brush’—for which Rubens is so celebrated.”

In its unrestored condition, the painting featured a yellow jacket, a hat reminiscent of that of an American cowboy, and a French Impressionist-style landscape likely added in the mid-to-late 19th century. It was probably first executed in the early 1610s, and the new attribution has been confirmed by Ben van Beneden, director of the Rubenshuis museum, and Arnout Balis, director of the Rubenianum.

Willen Drost, <em>Flora</em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Willen Drost, Flora. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

Additional big-ticket items included Orazio Gentileschi’s Head of a Woman, at $1.8 million, and Flora, which set a new auction record for Willem Drost when it exceed expectations of a $400,000–600,000 sale. Six bidders engaged in a fierce battle for the Titian-inspired work, which ultimately went for $4.6 million.

A Young Woman Holding a Distaff Before a Lit Candle became the most expensive work  by Adam de Coster ever sold at auction [it’s an auction record for the artist]; it brought in $4.85 million compared to an anticipated $1.5–2 million, and broke a record held since 1992.

Adam de Coster, <em>A Young Woman Holding a Distaff Before a Lit Candle</em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Adam de Coster, A Young Woman Holding a Distaff Before a Lit Candle. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

The January 25 “Old Master Drawings” day sale totaled $4.5 million, featuring two watercolors by J.M.W. Turner, that both more than tripled their high estimates with sales of $756,500 and $612,500. On January 26, the “Master Paintings & Sculpture Day Sale” brought in $8.6 million, led by The Martyrdom Altarpiece, a work from Nottingham, England, that dates to the second half of the 15th century and sold for $1.3 million on an estimate of just $250,000–350,000.

Rounding out the week was the “Master Paintings & 19th Century Art” auction on January 27, which saw a total of $1.48 million in sales. Matteo Rosselli’s Diana the Huntress, was the top lot, which far exceeded its $10,000–15,000 estimate, fetching $100,000.


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