Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rembrandt masterpiece fetches record S$45.5 million

LONDON - A masterpiece by Rembrandt sold for a record 20.2 million pounds (S$45.5 million) at auction in London on Tuesday, after not being seen in public for 40 years, organisers said.

The painting "Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo" had been held in private and went on public display for the first time in decades this month ahead of the auction, Christie's said.

The work sold for 20.20 million pounds - a world record for a Rembrandt at auction and the fourth highest price ever for an Old Master painting sold at auction, Christie's said.

Painted in 1658 during one of Rembrandt's most artistically inventive periods, it depicts an unknown sitter facing the artist with a defiant pose and hands on hips.

Richard Knight, international co-head of Old Masters and 19th century art at Christie's, said the price "reflects its importance and magnitude."

"We are delighted to have been able to exhibit this masterful portrait for the first time in nearly forty years leading up to the auction, and to have seen it realise such a strong price that reflects its importance and magnitude," he said.

The work was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder.

The previous record price for a Rembrandt sold at auction was set in December 2000 when "Portrait of a lady aged 62" fetched 19.8 million pounds at Christie?s in London.

Tuesday's work was donated to Columbia University in 1958 and was sold privately in 1974 to benefit the university's endowment fund. After appearing at an exhibition in 1970, it was not seen in public until last week.

Meanwhile Raphael's "Head of a Muse", a drawing seen only once in public in the last 50 years and not put up for general auction for more than 150 years, is also set to be sold on Tuesday.

It is estimated at between 12 and 16 million pounds.