Dutch Master Auctions

December Dutch Master Auctions Realize Over $64M Across Two Nights

Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s (December 5th and 6th respectively) recently hosted Dutch Master Auctions. Both sales generated a lot of buzz in their lead up and were highlighted by their own copy of Princess Mary, Daughter of Charles I, by famed Anthony Van Dyck and Studio. While they are nearly identical, the version up sold by Christie’s included a signature from the artist, driving the price upwards. The piece received high praise from Christie’s, claiming it to be “one of the most important European Royal Portraits to come to auction in a generation.” The Christie’s Van Dyck was estimated to be worth between $6-10 million and fetched $7.3 million – the Sotheby’s version sold for $1,006,618.


Despite Christie’s having a higher sales total for the evening, it can be said that Sotheby’s had the more interesting group of lots. One piece in particular – Study of the Head and Clasped Hands of A Young Man As Christ in Prayer by Rembrandt – helped in adding to the night’s excitement. With the rarity of the Rembrandt and other works, Sotheby’s was able to bring in an estimated $27 million in total sales. This total was aided by two additional  portraits by Anthony van Dyck – these being of King Charles’ I children which were kept in the same collection for nearly 100 years.

Dutch Master Auctions


Of the 42 pieces up for sale, half the works were by Dutch and Flemish artists.

One standout painting was the previously mentioned Rembrandt. Created in c. 1650, this work featured a new approach by Rembrandt, with more animated brush strokes and the attention being called to the clasped hands, as well as the head, which was a break from the Byzantine saint paintings that proceeded this era.


Christ is expressive and seems more human-like in this depiction versus others from this era. This piece is also considered to be a sketch by the artist which does underscore the overall more expressive quality in the brush strokes vs the more formalized elements Rembrandt’s work has come to be known for.


This was the first time this piece found its way onto the auction block in sixty years after being displayed in the Louvre as a part of the 2011 “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibition.”  The piece also features two fingerprints that are thought to be Rembrandt’s (the finger prints were originally discovered as the painting underwent extensive cleaning for the exhibition).


With the circumstances surrounding the work, a lot of buzz was generated prior to the auction. Bidding commenced at $5 million but quickly increased with a third-party guarantee – the piece ended up selling for an astonishing $12,080,435.


Another highly anticipated piece was the portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange. The young princess is depicted wearing a burnt sienna dress with gold embedded trim accented by lace cuffs, a lace collar, and several green bows. One hand rests on her waist while the other is on her side. The two portraits took in over $1 million each and were some of the top lots of the evening.


This sale saw participation from people in over 22 countries and had strong bidding from both new and traditional markets. Total sales for the night reached $38,026,210, selling 64% by lot. Private bidders dominated the auction however there were two institutional purchases as well.

Dutch Master Auctions


Sales at Christie’s carried the same level of excitement as their counterpart’s, seeing bids come in from over 24 countries across 4 continents.


The top lot was Hals’ Portrait of a gentleman, aged 37 and Portrait of a lady, aged 36, the two works sold for over $12.7 million in total, setting a new record for the artist at auction. Merry Company by Judith Leyster (potentially the most important painting produced by a female during the Golden Age) was also another standout sale, selling for $2,275,128 and setting a record for the artist. Total sales for the night came to $26,233,565.


With so much excitement centered around these works, buyers were willing do whatever it took to acquire them. Several new record prices were set for various artists which only emphasizes both the importance and demand of the artist from the Dutch Golden Age, and just how exciting Dutch Master auctions can be.

(All dollar figures in this blog are in USD)
About the Author:

Anni Irish has been a contributing writer to several online publications including Boston based publication, The Dig, New York Arts Magazine, and ArteFuse among others. She holds a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, an MA in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College, and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University.