Public Domain Image: The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler), oil on canvas painting (1892-93), 97 cm x 130 cm
Can this Paul Cézanne magnum opus be worth $300 million? It seems to be insane, especially so as none of the previously sold most expensive paintings, not another Cézanne, sold ever could fetch even half of the price.
But this painting, The Card Players, one of a series of five paintings by the French Post-Impressionist artist Cézanne, depicting two peasants from Aix-en-Provence deeply engrossed in a card game, broke all the records of art sales and set a new trend of unbelievably high prices for works of modern art, shifting the focus from old master paintings.
The Card Players, believed to be one of the last works Cezanne painted in his life, broke the record of the most expensive painting held by the American painter Jackson Pollock’s classic drip painting titled No. 5, 1948 which was sold for $140 million on November 2, 2006 in a private sale via Sotheby's.
If the highest rumored price for the Card Players can be believed, it is more than double the price of any work of art ever sold. However, the lowest confirmed (yet rumored) price is $250 million. The painting, which was in the private collection of the Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos, was rarely seen by the public as he kept it as one of his most treasured collections and rarely lent out for exhibitions.
However, before his death in 2011, Embiricos planned for its sales and it was pursued and managed by his estate. The painting is believed to have received offers of over $220 million, but the Royal family of Qatar, the ruling emir family of Qatar, outbid other bidders offering $250 million. However, estimates of the price Qatar paid are often quoted as high as $300 million.
The other Cézanne Card Players in the series are currently in the collections of the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Courtauld Institute of Art (London) and the Musée d'Orsay (Paris).
Apart from these paintings, there are several other sketches, studies, and paintings of individual figures in the work which Cezanne painted as preparatory works for the main paintings.