Archive
Amedeo Modigliani

Alain Delon collection auction: Delon sells a Modigliani “to buy a super Modigliani”

Japanese buyers come away with large proportion of lots

He himself claims a sudden change of artistic taste but there are those who put the sale of thirty-nine Rembrandt Bugatti sculptures and twenty-four modern paintings from Alain Delon’s collection (see issue no.2, p.19) down to a shortage of cash following the secret acquisition of a super Modigliani. So it’s cherchez le Modigliani, but also cherchez la femme, and not only because the collector is particularly popular with members of the gentler sex. La femme, or rather, la “Jeune femme” (lot 39, oil on canvas, 41x27cm, est.Ffr5-6m (£500-600,000; $1-1.2m) was hunted, adored and bought for Ffr6.3m (£630,000; $1.25m) via satellite and thus fell prey to the cupidity of the Japanese collector, who was unable to resist the glowing tones of the unknown sitter painted around around 1910 in Montparnasse. The artist? None other than Amedeo Modigliani. Is this a case of Modigliani ousting Modigliani?

Tokyo, Nagaya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka were connected live with l’Hôtel Drouot, where Loudmer held the sale of thirty-two works from the collection of Alain Delon as well as fifty-eight from elsewhere, and together came away with 19% of the lots. The total realized came to Ffr163m (£16.3m; $32.6) with 45% unsold. One of the major pieces in the Delon Collection to avoid expatriation to the Orient was “Château de Chillon” (lot 4), painted in 1875 by the mature Courbet, who was captivated by this Swiss scene so dear to the hearts of the Romantic poets. Measuring 81x100cm it was estimated at Ffr4-5m (£400-500,000; $800,000-1m) and sold for Ffr5.1m (£510,000; $1.02m). The opposite fate awaited “Nu dans un intérieur” (lot 33), an oil on canvas of 1908 by a Bonnard clear of Impressionism by then (75-63cm, est. Ffr5-6m; £500-600,000; $1m-1.2m), making for the land of the rising sun for the sum of Ffr4.7m (£470,000; $940,000).

Ffr2.1m (£210,000; $420,000) were paid for both “Le lavoir à Bougival” (lot 40), a work by Vlaminck which shows the influence of Cézanne in toning down his youthful aggression (1912, 54x65cm, oil on canvas, est. Ffr2-2.5m; £200-250,000; $400-500,000) and “Vue de l’Amstelhotel, Amsterdam” (lot 69) by Albert Marquet (1938, 50x60cm, oil on canvas, est.Ffr2-2.5m; £200-250,000; $380-470,000), in which the artist rediscovers the happy play of light between air and water typical of his long “reportages” from Scandinavia to Morocco.

Nevertheless, the most significant prices concerned works which were not part of the Delon Collection. “La ceinture jaune” (lot 63, oil on canvas, 130x97cm), a stylised sculptural form, almost an ideogram, painted by Picasso in 1932 at the same time as the monumental and surrealistic “Baigneuses”, made Ffr24m (£2.4m; $4.8m).

In the famous redemptive figure of Mary Magdalene Delacroix found the ideal subject when he abandoned cold Neo-classicism to explore heroic or more intimate and tormented passions. As lot 5 this canvas painted in 1843 (55.5x45cm, est. Ffr8-12m; £800,000-1.2m; $1.6-2.4m) went to the Musées de France for Ffr 10.5m (£1m; $2m), a sum collected with the help of Paris gallery owners Bourdon and Daber, obviously both very concerned with the fate of the Musée Eugène Delacroix.

A few words also about the great unsold. As far as the Delon Collection is concerned, a “Promenade au Bois de Boulogne” by Henri-Edmond Cross (lot 30, ca.1906, oil on canvas, 73x92cm, est. Ffr3.5-4m; £350-400,000; $700-800,000), whole brightly-coloured pointillisme says a great deal about the artist’s relations with Seurat, Signac and Fauvism, was held up at Ffr2.5m (£250,000; $500,000) and “Rue de Bois-Colombe” (lot 34, 1908-9, oil on canvas, 54x65cm, est. Ffr2-2.2m; £200-220,000; $400-440,000), an Utrillo in the muted colours characteristic of his white period, did not go beyond its lowest estimate. Among the “flops” from outside the Delon Collection may be found a preparatory drawing for “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” executed by Picasso between 1906 and 1907, “Nu assis et buste de femme” (lot 31, ink and watercolour on paper, 63x46cm), which stopped at Ffr14m (£1.4m; $2.8m) and two different Fauve works, “Nu” by van Dongen (lot 36, 1905-1910, oil on canvas, 65x54.5cm, est. Ffr7-8m; £700-800,000; $1.4-1.6m) and a view of the port of Le Havre by Raoul Dufy (lot 28, 1905-1906, oil on canvas, 54x65cm, est.Ffr4-5m; £400-500,000; $800,000-1m), which reached only Ffr4.1m (£410,000; $820,000) and Ffr3.7m (£370,000; $740,000) respectively.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Alain Delon sells a Modigliani “to buy a super Modigliani”'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 4 January 1991