New Records at Sotheby’s Old Master & British Paintings Evening Sale

Henceforth, the record mark for the works by the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder is $14.4 million. The result was received at Sotheby’s Old Master & British Paintings Sale that took place on 8 July 2015 in London. In fact, it was the first time when a significant private collection of paintings by Cranach the Elder was put up for auction. The top lot, “The Mouth of Truth” also known as “The Bocca Della Verita,” came from the collection of Countess Hardenberg, Schloss Neuhardenberg. Created in Wittenberg around 1525-1528, it depicts an unusual story that is mythical and comic at the same time. “The Mouth of Truth” refers back to the iconic sights of Rome – an ancient mask of the river god that can be seen even today in the porch of the Basilica di Santa Maria. So, according to the legend, the one who lies while placing his or her hand inside the open mouth of the river god will lose it. Well, Cranach painted a rarely illustrated subject telling a story about a duplicitous wife accused of adultery. The lady asked the jester to embrace her and said, “I have never been touched by a man other than my husband and by this Fool here beside me.” Who will take seriously the fool? Even if he is the mentioned lover…

However, “The Mouth of Truth” by Lucas Cranach the Elder is not the only record of the fine art sale. Pictures by six well-known artists have set new price records, and, what’s more, 46% of the artworks have never appeared at auction sales before. It should be noted that a significant contribution to Sotheby’s Old Master & British Paintings fine art sale was made by one of Britain’s finest houses, Castle Howard in Yorkshire. They put up for auction a great collection of treasures gathered by the owners over a period of 300 years to support the family nest. Thus, four of their paintings went for $14 million. For example, the masterpiece of the Rembrandt school – “Portrait of a Boy Aged 8” by Ferdinand Bol, depicting a son of the painter, – went under the hammer for a record for this artist $8 million.

Among other masterpieces, we can mention such works as “Venice, a view of the Grand Canal looking south from the Palazzo Foscari” created by Bernardo Bellotto at the age of 16-17, which was sold for $3.9 million, and “Portrait of King Henry VIII” from the Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger, created in 1542, the year when the King’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was executed for alleged adultery, which was sold for $1.5 million. Of course, compared to the results of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction and extremely high prices for the works by modern artists, such results may seem rather modest. Nevertheless, the auctioneers are happy as the interest in the works by Old Masters is constantly growing.