A still life by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder realised £2.9m ($3.6m) in Christie’s pioneering Actual Size auction.
The sale only featured artworks small enough to be reproduced full size in the catalogue, resulting in a wildly eclectic mix of lots from throughout history.
Ambrosius Bosschaert specialised in floral still lifes
Bosschaert (1573-1621) was a Dutch golden age painter who specialised in floral still lifes.
He lived and worked in Middelburg, which was at the time a centre for the study and cultivation of exotic plants in Europe.
While today tulips are an internationally recognised Dutch symbol, when this piece was painted (circa 1608-1610) they were grown only in very small numbers and were prohibitively expensive.
The first seeds had arrived in Western Europe via the Ottoman empire just a decade or so before.
Here Bosschaert makes them the focus of his painting.
Pablo Picasso’s Buste de Femme Couche (1970) realised £2.4m ($3m), more than doubling its valuation of £900,000 ($1.1m).
It’s an extraordinary miniature painted in the last years of his life.
The subject of the work is Jacqueline Roque, his second wife and final muse.
Curator Marie-Laure Bernadec explained in a 1988 exhibition catalogue: “it is characteristic of Picasso, in contrast to Matisse and many other twentieth-century painters, that he takes as his model – or as his Muse – the woman he loves and who lives with him, not a professional model.
“So what his paintings show is never a ‘model’ of a woman, but woman as model…detachment is an impossibility”.
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