At the end of January, Sotheby’s utilized the power of 90s girl band Spice Girls to promote their new exhibition and auction focusing on female artists titled ‘The Female Triumphant’. Fashion designer Victoria Beckham, formerly known to teens everywhere as Posh Spice, appeared at the auction house’s pre-sale event after selected works from the auction hung in Beckham’s London clothing store.
‘The Female Triumphant’ was, in fact, a triumph setting records for a number of the female artists it highlighted from the premodern period. The auction led Sotheby’s Masters Week in New York and these are seven paintings sold during the auction setting records for the artists:
Portrait of Muhammad Dervish Khan, Full-Length, Holding His Sword, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1788)
This impressive portrait garnered $7.9 million during the Master Paintings Evening Sale on January 30th. Le Brun (1755-1842) was a skilled artist of her time, well-known for painting Marie-Antoinette and for being favoured amongst Versailles and Paris’ elite. It is said that when Le Brun first saw Dervish Khan, an Indian ambassador to France, at the opera she knew she wanted to paint him.
A glass compote with peaches, jasmine flowers, quines, and a grasshopper, Fede Galizia
Only discovered in the late 20th century, Galizia’s still life resulted in $2.4 million at the January 30th sale. Galizia (1578-1630) was a major factor in the development of still-life as a genre in Italy. Her use of minimalist compositions of fruit and flowers became her hallmark. Today, only about 20 artworks have been attributed to her.
Portrait of Three Children, Almost Certainly Lady Georgiana Spencer, Later Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Henrietta Spencer and George Viscount Althorp, Angelika Kauffmann (c. 1766)
Estimated to sale for $600,000-$800,000, Kauffmann’s painting sold for $915,000 in Sotheby’s sale. Working during the 1700s, Kauffmann (1741-1807) became one of England’s most popular paintings. This painting is thought to have been made for one of England’s wealthiest families, the Spencers, who were also one of the earliest patrons of Kauffmann.
Joseph Interpreting the Eunuchs’ Dreams; Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar Consoling Job, Giulia Lama
This painting duo set a record for Lama (1681-1747) coming in at $495,000. Somewhat unknown until the 20th century, Lama was a poet, scholar, and embroider in addition to being an enigmatic artist of the Venetian Settecento. Utilizing unconventional subject matter for female artists of her time, Lama is thought to have competed well against her male counterparts.
Portrait of the Artist, Seated at Her Easel, Amile-Ursule Guillebaud (c. 1820-1845)
Selling for $16,250 (estimated at $8,000-$12,000) in the Master Paintings & Sculpture Day Sale on January 31st, this painting is by an artist, which very little is known about, and is thought to be her self-portrait. Guillebaud (1800-c.1880) studied under Joseph Hornung and worked in Geneva.
Femme de pêcheur venant de baigner ses enfants, Virginie Demont-Breton (1881)
Demont-Breton (1859-1935) was an advocate for the rights of female artists, which even led the artist to engaging in politics. Her painting sold during Sotheby’s February 1st 19th Century European Art sale for more than three times its estimate at $543,000. This painting won Demont-Breton her first medal at the 1881 Salon and distinguished her as a notable painter and advocate.
La captive, Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau
The sale of this ex-patriot’s painting set her artist record at $591,000 in the February 1st sale. Bouguereau (1837-1922) was one of the most successful female artists, American or foreign working in the US. In total, she exhibited 36 paintings and was one of the only American women to receive a medal from the Salon.