Veteran Old Master Dealer Otto Naumann Is Retiring—and Selling the Rest of His Inventory at Sotheby’s

His son, Ambrose Naumann, will open a new venture following in his father's footsteps.

Otto Nauman. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

After nearly 40 years of collecting and trading Old Master paintings, the scholar and dealer Otto Naumann is retiring from the art business and putting a portion of his inventory and personal collection up for sale at Sotheby’s.

After his retirement, Naumann will pass the baton to his son, Ambrose Naumann, who will open his own gallery.

“The building is going to be gut renovated so everyone has to leave and my lease is up, so I thought it was a good opportunity for my son to start his gallery and for me to close mine,” Otto Naumann told artnet News.

The dealer’s trove, which will be sold in a dedicated sale on January 31 in New York, includes paintings and sculptures from Dutch, Italian, and Spanish masters, such as the recently attributed Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness by Giovanni Baglione (estimated to sell for $400,000–600,000); Joaquín Sorolla’s Viejo castellans siriviéndose vino ($200,000–300,000); and Giovanni Bilivert’s Venus, Cupid, and Pan ($300,000–500,000).

Naumann said the Sotheby’s consignment “is more or less my entire inventory in Old Master and 19th century paintings, many of which have not been seen on the market for years.” In a statement, George Wachter, co-chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master paintings, called the collection “a delightfully eclectic group,” including works on copper, panel, stone and even glass.

Naumann has built a reputation as a dealer with a discerning eye and a knack for bringing newly attributed and overlooked historic works to market. (The fact that he once owned Rembrandt’s Minerva in Her Study [1635], which, at $40 million, was the most expensive Old Master painting on the market in 2002, made him the subject of New Yorker “Talk of the Town” column.)

Although he started out as a specialist in Dutch and Flemish painting, Naumann broadened his expertise and began offering Italian, French, Spanish, and British art, as well as 19th century painting, 10 years ago. As a scholar with art history degrees from Columbia and Yale, he wrote an important monograph on Frans van Mieris in 1981. Naumann previously sold a collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings at Sotheby’s in 2007.

Asked about his plans for life after the gallery, the veteran dealer said he wasn’t sure, but that retirement might not look too different from his current schedule. “It will be in the arts and it will probably be in Old Masters to 19th century, and it will probably be some kind of consulting, buying with people, finding paintings—but not so much the selling part, which is what no art dealer likes anyway. I like the buying part.”

“I do have hobbies,” he said. “I like to read. But I can’t read 10 hours a day.”


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