SOLD! Goya’s Lavishly-Bound Presentation Copy of Los Caprichos Gets $607,500 at Christie’s


Update: The presentation copy of the first edition of Goya’s Los Caprichos sold for $607,500.

What you see: A presentation copy of the first edition of Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos, from 1799. Specifically, you see plate 43–what might be its most famous image–The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. Christie’s estimates the set of prints at $500,000 to $700,000.

Who is Francisco Goya? He’s the most important and influential Spanish artist of the 18th and 19th centuries. He captured the high and the low in his paintings and prints, from portraits of kings to the sufferings of the mentally ill. He died in 1828, at the age of 82.

What is Los Caprichos? It is a group of 80 aquatints and etchings that explore what Goya deemed follies, or foolish notions then bedeviling Spanish society. When he published the set in 1799, it flopped, with only 30 copies selling over the course of four years. “Things that are visionary often do badly when they are first published,” says Sven Becker, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s. “It was far ahead of its time.”

Why is this copy worth $500,000 to $700,000? “This is the only known presentation copy in private hands,” says Becker. “It could actually deliver a surprising result, far beyond its estimate. There’s no reason it couldn’t hit $1 million.”

The set of prints is bound in red goatskin. What does that fact tell us? “Red goatskin was the finest material available to Goya,” Becker says. “He went to a lot of expense. It was for a person who was important to him. You would expect Goya to select the very best prints before putting them into a very expensive binding.”

So, who was the lucky recipient? “It’s inscribed to ‘Mr. X’, but the name of the actual recipient has been deleted,” Becker says. “He or she was clearly really important to Goya. It wouldn’t have been just anyone.”

But the lot notes for this copy of Los Caprichos says ‘…there is little doubt that she was María Josefa Pimental (1752-1834), Countess and Duchess of Benavente, wife of Pedro Téllez-Girón, 9th Duke of Osuna.’ Why the hesitation? “I’d love to say categorically that it’s her,” he says. “I was not able to find enough evidence. If I’d been certain, I would have put it in the headline.”

How did María Josefa Pimental know Goya? “At the time, she was known to have been one of his main patrons. He actually produced a portrait of her not long before the printing of this book,” he says. “It’s mounted on the back of one of the blank leaves. It could have been mounted by her. It’s an unusual thing to do. It feels like it had to be her.”

What else makes this copy of Los Caprichos special? “This book was personally handled by the person who made it. He put pen to paper [to inscribe it],” Becker says. “It allows us to build a bridge between the present and Goya’s time, which is so rare.”

How to bid: The Los Caprichos is lot 432 in Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana and the Eric C. Caren Collection, a sale taking place at Christie’s New York on June 15.

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Image is courtesy of Christie’s.

SOLD! Wright Sold That Amazing Macchie Vase for $8,450


Update: The macchie vase sold for $8,450.

What you see: A macchie (mah-key-aye) vase created circa 1890 by the Italian company Francesco Ferro e Figlio. Wright estimates it at $4,000 to $6,000.

What is Francesco Ferro e Figlio? It was a company founded in 1880 by Francesco Ferro and his son, Ferdinando. It ceased doing business under this name after Francesco died in 1901.

Wait, this vase was made in 1890? The late 19th century? Seriously? “So many 19th century pieces really do look modern,” says Sara Blumberg, a consultant for Wright. “This has no handles and no great ornamentation except for the glass itself. They really were making a step forward out of the baroque.”

How difficult would this have been to make in 1890? “Regardless of the technique, there are great losses. There’s a level of difficulty when dealing with different types of glass in the same vessel. You can think of it as studio glass in that regard,” she says. “A lot of the aspects are dependent on the day, the blower, the conditions, and luck as well.”

The vase stands 12 inches tall. Did its size pose a challenge to the glassblower? “Generally speaking, the larger a vessel becomes, the more difficult it is to make,” Blumberg says. “Twelve inches may not seem incredibly large, but for the 19th century, it is.”

Is it unique? “It’s unique in the sense that every vase is hand-blown. But in 25 years, I’ve never handled one,” she says. “It’s really very rare.”

What does “macchie” mean? It means “spot,” or “spotted.” It’s a literal description of the vase’s appearance.

What else makes this vase special? “It’s rather startling to look at. It’s a simple vessel, but there’s all this activity on the surface. It’s like looking at an abstract painting,” she says. “It’s quite early, but it has a modernity to it. There’s an artistic presence here that’s very intentional, and beautiful to see. That’s what makes the piece so exciting and rare. You don’t come across it very often.”

How to bid: The macchie vase is lot 223 in The Design Collection of Dimitri Levas, taking place June 8 at Wright.

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Image is courtesy of Wright.


SOLD! Martial Raysse’s Gift to Hotel Chelsea Manager Stanley Bard Commands $50,000–10x Its Low Estimate


Update: Martial Raysse’s UNTITLED (EYES) sold for $50,000–ten times its low estimate.

What you see: UNTITLED (EYES), a 1963 mixed media collage by the French artist Martial Raysse. He inscribed it, “To Stanley Bard Avec l’amitié de Martial Raysse (To Stanley Bard, with the friendship of Martial Raysse).” Freeman’s estimates it at $5,000 to $8,000.

Who is Martial Raysse? In the 1960s Raysse cofounded the Nouveau Réalisme art movement with Yves Klein and Arman, two fellow residents of the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan. His compatriots banished him from the group after he abandoned making art from consumer objects to paint on canvas instead. It’s unclear when he moved out of the Hotel Chelsea. Raysse set the auction record for the most expensive painting by a living French artist when his Last Year in Capri (Exotic Title) garnered $6.58 million at Christie’s London in 2011. He turned 81 in February.

Who is Stanley Bard? He managed the Hotel Chelsea for more than 40 years, enhancing and cementing its reputation as an artists’ sanctuary. He died in February at the age of 82. Freeman’s is selling almost 100 works from his personal collection–art that graced his own apartment rather than the walls of the hotel he ran.

What led Raysse to give Bard this work? We’re not sure what the circumstances were, but the two would have met at the Chelsea. “We didn’t know what it was at first,” says Alasdair Nichol, vice chairman at Freeman’s. “Nobody seemed to know. The writing was hard to make out. I loved it as an image even by an anonymous artist. When it turned out to be a Martial Raysse, it made it a more interesting proposition.”

What makes UNTITLED (EYES) so strong? “The bright red color, and the eyes,” Nichol says. “I love it. The moment you see it, it stays with you. It’s a pretty indelible image. It feels very much of its time as well, with the 1960s model eyelashes. The neon color reinforces it. It’s electric.”

How to bid: Martial Raysse’s UNTITLED (EYES) is lot 32 in the Stanley Bard Collection: Life at the Chelsea sale at Freeman’s on May 16.

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Image is courtesy of Freeman’s.

SOLD: Julien’s Sells the Original Prop Bottle from I Dream of Jeannie for $34,375


Update: The I Dream of Jeannie prop bottle sold for $34,375.

What you see: The original prop bottle from the NBC sitcom I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970). It’s hand-painted and stands 14 inches tall. Julien’s estimates it at $40,000 to $60,000.

How do we know this is the original prop bottle from I Dream of JeannieIt comes directly to Julien’s from the estate of Gene Nelson, who directed six episodes of the show’s first season, including the pilot, titled The Lady in the Bottle. At some point, Nelson obtained a letter of authenticity from Barbara Eden, who played the title character, Jeannie. Nelson died in 1996. Eden will turn 86 in August.

Did Nelson create the I Dream of Jeannie bottle? Nelson has the strongest claim on its origin story. He was hunting for something that didn’t look like Aladdin’s lamp, spotted a Jim Beam decanter in a liquor store window, snapped it up, and handed it over to the folks in the prop department, who peeled the labels off the glass and decorated it with paint. “There’s something unique in the fact that he saw this,” says Darren Julien, founder and CEO of Julien’s Auctions. “He was scouting around, found the bottle, and had the vision to paint it. He was a good visionary.”

Was it used on the set? Almost certainly, but coming up with a precise photo match is tough, given that the prop bottles were painted to look identical. But according to Julien, the animators would have referenced photos of this bottle when creating the opening credit sequence, and it’s safe to say it was shown in the early episodes that Nelson directed. He left I Dream of Jeannie after repeated clashes with Larry Hagman, who played astronaut Tony Nelson on the show.

How rare is the bottle? “It’s very rare. We have not handled one before. Not many survive, and nobody back then would have saved anything like that,” says Julien, adding, “It’s the Holy Grail of the series to have. It’s what the show is about. Provenance is king, and it has such a solid history. It’s an iconic piece that’s going to sell for a lot more than our estimate.”

So, does it come with Barbara Eden? No, but it does include the letter of authentication that she wrote for Nelson. The bottle’s interior is also unfurnished and long since emptied of its whiskey. And neither Julien’s nor The Hot Bid is responsible for the I Dream of Jeannie theme song getting stuck in your head.

Damn you! #SorryNotSorry

How to bid: The I Dream of Jeannie original bottle is lot 486 in the Property from the Estate of Patrick Swayze and Hollywood Legends 2017 auction on April 28 at Julien’s.

How to subscribe to The Hot BidClick the trio of dots at the upper right of this page.

Image is courtesy of Julien’s Auctions.

Da DA dadadadada Da DA dadadadada Da DA dadadadadada. BadadaDA!

LAST CALL: Gilbert Munger’s Breathtaking El Capitan Canvas Could Win $60,000 at Bonhams


What you see: El Capitan in a Gathering Storm, by Gilbert Munger, painted in 1876. Bonhams estimates it at $40,000 to $60,000.

Who was Gilbert Munger? He was an American 19th century artist who taught himself to paint. While he wasn’t the first to immortalize El Capitan and other landscape landmarks of what is now Yosemite National Park, he was among the wave of artists who followed in the wake of photographer Carleton Watkins and his stereoscopic camera. In 1869, Munger served as a guest artist on a survey expedition, capturing the West’s natural splendor without giving short shrift to accuracy. Munger continued to travel the West periodically until 1875, and he helped increase Yosemite’s legend by showing his breathtaking Western images in Europe. Munger died in 1903.

What makes El Capitan in a Gathering Storm special? Munger canvases don’t come to auction all that often–archives note just 45 sales of his works between 1988 and now. The auction record for a Munger belongs to another El Capitan scene painted in the same year. In 2006, Bonhams sold A Small Encampment, El Capitan, in Yosemite Valley for $172,500.

What else makes the Munger oil on canvas stand out? “The quality is that outstanding,” says Scot Levitt, vice president of Bonhams and director of fine arts. “It catches your attention when you see it. It’s rare. And it’s exciting to see something that’s not your average scene.”

How to bid: El Capitan in a Gathering Storm is lot 6 in Bonhams’s California and Western Paintings and Sculpture auction on April 11 in Los Angeles.

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Image is courtesy of Bonhams.

UPDATE: Untitled (Negro Mother) Realizes $100,000–an Auction Record for Sargent Johnson–at Swann Galleries

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Update: Sargent Johnson’s Untitled (Negro Mother) sold for $100,000–a record for the artist at auction.

What you see: Sargent Johnson’s Untitled (Negro Mother), a copper repoussé mask created circa 1935-36. It measures about 12 inches long and is estimated at $80,000 to $120,000.

Who is Sargent Johnson? He was a 20th century African-American artist who spent most of his career in San Francisco, and worked in a wide range of artistic media. He earned a national profile with his compelling, sensitive images of African-American subjects. “He worked to convey a more positive view of African-American femininity and womanhood in a time when the images were racist stereotypes,” says Nigel Freeman, director of the African-American fine art department at Swann Galleries. Johnson died in 1967.

What makes Untitled (Negro Mother) so intriguing? It’s one of perhaps ten copper repoussé masks that Johnson made, and most of those are in museum collections. Untitled (Negro Mother) is only the second Johnson mask to come to auction. Swann Galleries sold the first, a 1933 work simply called Mask, for $67,200 against an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000 in 2010. The consignor owned it for 50-odd years, having bought it as an unattributed mask and learning later who created it: “Somebody just sold it as a mask, and the owner discovered the signature on the back and discovered who Sargent Johnson was,” says Freeman.

What else makes Untitled (Negro Mother) a powerful work of art? “It has the character, stature, and dignity that all Johnson’s figures have,” says Freeman. “It’s beautifully proportioned, and you get a sense of the artist being very careful to have everything perfectly balanced. At the same time, you have a strong human presence. That’s what makes his work stand out.”

How to bid: Untitled (Negro Mother) is lot 13 in Swann Galleries’s African-American Fine Art auction on April 6.

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Image is courtesy of Swann Galleries.