By Scott Reyburn
Dec. 8 (Bloomberg) -- A portrait by Rembrandt sold for 20.2 million pounds ($32.9 million) at Christie’s International today in London, a record for the artist at auction. Less than an hour later, a Raphael drawing fetched 29.2 million pounds, the most paid for an Old Master drawing at a public sale.
The two works had the highest valuations on an Old Master painting and drawing, said the auction house. Valuations of a diminishing supply of Old Masters have shown little change and, for the rarest works, increased, said dealers. This contrasts with estimates for contemporary art, which have been slashed by as much as 50 percent after the financial crisis.
“Prices at auction are very strong because there isn’t much out there,” Johnny van Haeften, a London-based dealer, said in an interview. “People don’t want to sell at the moment. They’re saying, ‘If I let a painting go, where do I put the money? I’d rather keep it in a work of art.’”
Barbara Piasecka Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress, was the seller of the 1658 “Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo” at Christie’s sale of Old Masters and 19th-century art, said dealers. The price for the Dutch artist exceeded the 19.8 million pounds paid by the late Maastricht-based dealer Robert Noortman for a portrait of an old woman at Christie’s, London, in 2000. That picture now belongs to the U.S.-based collector Eyk Van Otterloo.
The Rembrandt work that sold tonight, which had a low estimate of 18 million pounds, was bought by a single telephone bidder giving instructions to Paul Raison of Christie’s.
The black-chalk study for the head of a muse in Raphael’s 1510-11 Vatican fresco “Parnassus” had been entered by the heirs of the British collector, Norman Colville, with a low estimate of 12 million pounds.
The record price for an Old Master drawing at auction was jointly held by Michelangelo’s “The Risen Christ” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Horse and Rider,” both of which fetched 8.1 million pounds with fees at Christie’s in July 2000 and July 2001 respectively
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