At Sotheby’s New York on the evening of May 14th, one of Claude Monet’s iconic haystack paintings set a new record for Impressionists. After more than eight minutes of continuous bidding, the gavel fell and the 1890 painting, titled Meules, sold for a whopping $110.7 million. The winning bid shattered the painting’s pre-sale estimate of about $55 million and bolstered the totals of the sale.
Meules was a part of the collection of a wealthy Chicago couple, Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, who bought the painting from Monet’s dealer in 1890, shortly after it was finished. Then, in 1986, it was sold to another private collector. When it was shown at Sotheby’s in early May, ahead of the sale, it hadn’t been exhibited in public in more than three decades. The painting is one of about 25 haystack paintings that Monet created over the course of about seven years. Meules stands out from others for its composition that shows the haystacks (which are actually stacks of wheat) at a diagonal causing a sharp slant to the shadows and light. The study was Monet’s attempt to better understand the effects of light on his subjects and became primary examples of Impressionism and contributed to Abstractionism as well. 17 of the 25 haystack paintings are held in the collections of major institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musée d’Orsay.
For the sale as a whole, though, the night was somewhat lackluster. Despite a 91% sale through rate and bringing in $349.9 million (including buyer’s premium), over $10 million more than pre-sale high estimate, about half of the 55 lots offered went for less than their pre-sale low estimates. Moreover, Sotheby’s night tallied in about $50 million less than Christie’s sale of similar period works the night before that brought in $399 million.
Other notable sales during the evening included two works by Picasso. The first, Femme au chien, a 1962 painting by the artist depicting his second wife Jacqueline Roque and their dog Kaboul. The painting had been a part of the private collection of a Japanese collector for nearly 30 years and outdid its presale estimate by $17 million to bring in $48 million, without buyer’s premiums. Mousquetaire à la pipe (1968), also by Picasso, was another painting of note. Once exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1976, the painting was estimated to sale for $20 million to $30 million but was sold for $18 million, only breaking its low estimate with premiums added onto it. A painting by Chaïm Soutine called La Femme en rouge (c. 1923-1924) made its mark on the evening as well. After a flurry of bids over the course of a few minutes, the price of the painting rose above the pre-sale estimate high coming in at $9.4 million (without premiums), just over its $8 million estimate.
For the results of each lot, click here.