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On the Market: Christie's Rockefeller Sale

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the highly anticipated, blockbuster auction of the Rockefeller Collection that is set to launch this evening at Christie's. TIME claims it “...Could Be the Biggest Sale Ever,” while Christie's itself is calling the sale "the most anticipated art world event of the spring season." Some early estimates suggest the lot - some 1,550 pieces in total - could go for upwards of $500 million. If it does, it will surpass the current sales record, the $443 million achieved by the Yves Saint Laurent Collection in 2010.


Such blockbuster sales always draw attention from collectors and art enthusiasts, and the Rockefeller Collection, which has been brilliantly marketed by Christie's over the past months, is no exception. Peggy and David Rockefeller are arguably the most important American collectors of both art and objects, and today their name is synonymous with both taste and luxury. This category-spanning sale of their estate has attracted the interest of art collectors, top designers and museums, all of whom hope to take home a memento, large or small, from the historic collection. They'll have ample opportunity over the next three days, as all manner of art, porcelain, furniture, silver and more go on sale both in person and online. Here is a small sampling of our favorite pieces on offer:



Pablo Picasso’s “Young Girl with a Flower Basket" (Estimate on Request)


Fillette à la corbeille fleurie by Pablo Picasso

Fillette à la corbeille fleurie by Pablo Picasso. Image courtesy Christie's


Boasting a provenance that moves from Picasso to Gertrude Stein to David Rockefeller, the important work is understandably drawing interest from around the globe. The fact that the market for Picasso works is excessively healthy at the moment only boosts its prospects. $212 million of Picasso works have already been sold at auction this year, and 45 more works estimated to fetch upwards of $305 million are coming to auction in the next two weeks. Rather than a case of supply and demand driving down prices, the fervor for Picasso has only made these auctions more popular. Picasso - always a favorite among collectors - is undoubtedly having a moment.


Update: Picasso's "Fillette à la corbeille fleurie" brought $115,000,000, making it one of the most expensive Picasso paintings in the world.



Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's “Venise, vue du Quai des Esclavons” (Estimate: $8,000,000 - $12,000,000)


Venise, vue du Quai des Esclavons by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Venise, vue du Quai des Esclavons by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Image courtesy Christie's


The inclusion of Corot's highly important view of Venice's Quai des Esclavons in the Rockefeller sale's most significant art offerings proves that 19th-century art has not fallen out of favor. Corot is among the 19th-century greats - Monet himself once claimed: “There is only one master here — Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.” His highly detailed scenes of the architecture Venice and the French landscape are mainstays in any comprehensive art collection. David Rockefeller seems to have agreed - he placed his Corot in a position of prominence above his fireplace mantel, replacing Cézanne’s Jas de Bouffan with the classic Venetian scene.


Update: "Venise, vue du Quai des Escalvons" brought $9,009,844, setting a new record for Corot.



The 'Marly Rouge' Porcelain Dessert Service by Sèvres made for Napoléon (Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000)


The Marly Rouge Service

The 'Marly Rouge' Service: A Sèvres Dessert Service Made for Napoleon I. Image courtesy Christie's


One of many objects in the Rockefeller sale with impeccable provenance, the opulently decorated porcelain from the “Marly Rouge” service by Sèvres was ordered by none other than the French Emperor Napoléon I. Following his death, the service was broken up and sold, though the Rockefeller collection boasts approximately one-third of the original service, making it the largest remaining collection of the original currently known. Much more than a porcelain service, it represents an important piece of Imperial history, proving the importance of provenance at auction.


Update: Napoléon's 'Marly Rouge' service by Sèvres blew its pre-sale estimates out of the water, bringing a remarkable $1,812,500.



Set of Ten George III Mahogany Dining Chairs (Estimate: $50,000 - $100,000)


A Set of Ten George III Mahogany Dining Chairs

A Set of Ten George III Mahogany Dining Chairs. Image courtesy Christie's


Peggy and David Rockefeller's exquisite taste for furniture that was both comfortable and elegant is seen throughout the offerings in Christie's sale, but these George III dining chairs truly epitomize the ethos. Crafted around 1760, the mahogany chairs are derivative of the style of the great Thomas Chippendale, bringing together exceptional craftsmanship with the ornate Gothic motifs that were popular during the Georgian Age. While their contemporaries gave in to the fervor for French furniture and antiques, the Rockefeller's preferred the livable elegance of English furniture, and these chairs were used regularly by the family. Such pieces remain timeless acquisitions. See more antique chairs


Update: The classic Chippendale-style dining set brought $250,000.


Other notable offerings include an extensive collection of Chinese export porcelain, a stunning Odalisque by the great Matisse, an important Vincent van Gogh charcoal, Peggy Rockefeller's engagement ring by Raymond Yard and so much more. As savvy collectors with endless wealth, the Rockefellers meticulously pieced together a collection that has rarely been rivaled throughout history. Even for lesser-known objects and artworks, a Rockefeller provenance enhances their allure and value. We will see shortly how this affects the hammer price. All of us at M.S. Rau, along with collectors globally, eagerly await the results of this historic sale.


Update: When all was said and done after the last hammer fell on May 10, the Rockefeller sale had brought in a record-breaking $832.5 million. The numbers dwarf the results of Christie's three-day auction of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 2009, which totaled $443 million. All proceeds from the Rockefeller sale will be donated to charity.



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