Friday, June 25, 2010

Manet's 'Self-Portrait with Palette' sold for $33.4 million

Photo: Self-Portrait with Palette (1879), oil on canvas painting by Edouard Manet, dimensions 83 cm x 67 cm (33 in x 26 in), private collection.

A self-portrait by French painter Edouard Manet, titled Self-Portrait with Palette, has sold for a record price of over $33.4 million at an auction in London, Sotheby's said. It was the highest price paid for a picture by Manet.

The French artist Edouard Manet’s 1879 impressionistic painting ‘Self-Portrait with Palette’ (also known by names such as Autoportrait a la palette, Portrait de Manet par lui-même, Manet à la palette, Selbstporträt mit Palette), is one of his two self-portraits and the only one in private collection, the other being ‘Self-Portrait with Cap’ (1879) currently in the Bridgestone Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan.

Self-Portrait with Palette has been described as one of the greatest self-portraits in the entire canon of art history. It is the only self-portrait by Manet in which he depicted himself as an artist, though he depicted himself in several other paintings as one of many figures in large compositions in such works as Fishing (1860-61), Music in the Tuileries (1862), and The Ball of the Opera (1873). The painting shows Manet working with his left hand, but it is believed for certain that he was not left-handed, and hence the painting shows a mirror image of him. Also, watch his coat lapel and pocket that clearly indicates a mirror reflection of him, which was used as a model for the painting.

When art historian and Manet’s biographer Adolphe Tabarant asked Manet's stepson Léon Leenhoff about the time at which Manet had been stricken with Syphilis, Leenhoff said it was in 1879, which explains why Manet, who had never before painted a self-portrait, had painted two within that year, possibly with the reality of near-future death, he felt a need to come to terms with himself.

At the auction of the Loeb collection (owned by the collector couple John and Frances L. Loeb from New York) on 12 May 1997, the painting was sold for $18.7 million to the Casino developer Steve Wynn, though it was acquired by the Loebs for $176,800. Steve Wynn displayed Self-Portrait with Palette in his hotel, Hotel Bellagio and Wynn, Las Vegas. In March 2005, it was privately sold to Steven A Cohen, a high profile art collector and hedge fund manager, who, it is speculated, might have paid between $35 million to $40 million.

According to 7 May 2010 reports, Steven A Cohen decided to auction the painting at Sotheby's on 22 June 2010, at an expected price of $30-$45 million. Though it could not live up to his maximum expectations, the painting was sold for a record $33.4 million to the New York dealer Franck Giraud, who was bidding at Sotheby’s sale in London. The Manet painting was among 51 lots in Sotheby’s sale of Impressionist and Modern Art works in a series of auctions in London over the fortnight.

The previous highest price paid for a Edouard Manet was £17.8 million ($26.4 million) for the 1878 street scene ‘La rue Mosnier aux drapeaux’ at Christie’s in New York in November 1989.

Henri Matisse’s ‘Odalisques jouant aux dames’ (1928) was sold for more than £11 million. In February an Alberto Giacometti bronze sculpture has become the most expensive piece of art to be sold at an auction after it was sold in London for more than £65 million.

London this week is hosting a number of auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art works with sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams. The other highlights of the auction were paintings by Henri Matisse, André Derain and Chaïm Soutine, which have never appeared at auction before.

Art investment pundits predict that works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse will lead auctions at the top end of the art market, as it is recovering from the biggest slump since 1991.

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