Home Magazine Another success for female ancient painters

Converted from a live auction to an online auction, the sale dedicated to the Old Masters on May 7 (including the "Portrait Miniatures from the Pohl-Ströher Collection" catalogue) totalled £ 3.4 million / $ 4.2 million. The pre-sale estimate of £ 1.5-2.1 million has doubled and has become the most valuable online sale of Old Masters from Sotheby's to date. It is seen that, over 70% of the lots were exceeding the highest estimates, with a strong sales rate of 86%. Participants have registered from over 30 countries across the UK, North America, Europe and Russia. 27% of buyers were new to Sotheby's.

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The figure that has left many intrigued is yet another success for the ancient painters whose sales prices are increasing exponentially. During the auction, a rare mannerist painting by Orsola Maddalena Caccia broke an auction record, was sold 14 times its highest estimate. Daughter of the painter Guglielmo Caccia, called il Moncalvo, after training as her assistant, Orsola took vows to enter religious life. After the death of his father, she managed to study in the convent where she became the abbess and with her works' commissions she supported the religious community.


Lady Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, lady butler, Yeomanry scouts on the veldt, estimate £10,000–15,000.Courtesy Sotheby's


"Hunting works are very rare," says Andrew Fletcher, senior director of the Old Master and British paintings section at Sotheby's. The artist's record canvas represented an unexpected highlight of the sale which consisted of works by ancient masters and portrait miniatures from the Pohl-Ströher collection. The painting was sold for 212,500 pounds (224 thousand euros), more than 14 times its highest estimate of 15 thousand pounds (17 thousand euros). Yesterday's sale also included "Yeomanry Scouts on the Veldt", a painting by Victorian war painter Elizabeth Southerden Thompson (Lady Butler), which was sold for £ 15,000 against an initial estimate of £ 10,000 (that is, from £ 11,000 to £ 17,000). "I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism," wrote the painter Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, or Lady Butler as she would become upon her marriage on 1877 to Lieutenant General Sir William Butler, a mutton-chopped veteran of campaigns in Manitoba and Ashanti.

The market for works by female painters has exploded in recent years. Currently, the selling prices are not in the least comparison to those of the male counterparts. However, interest in the paintings of ancient teachers is widening considerably. Last November, another work by the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi set a new sales record at the Artcurial auction in Paris, reaching a value of 4.8 million euros.

Cover image: Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Still Life of Birds, estimate £10,000–15,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

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