The results are in from last Tuesday’s auctions at Sotheby’s when the Upper East Side auction house held its annual December sales on Important Judaica and Israeli & International Art.
The two auctions brought a combined total of $7,109,940.There were high expectations for some pieces, such as a German Miniscule Torah, which failed to sell.
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim’s recently-rediscovered “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara” led the day with its $407,000 price tag, an auction record for the artist. Its estimate was $200-300,000. Until this sale, the painting had been missing for more than 100 years, and was only known from a preliminary drawing. The Mortara family is still involved with the Italian Jewish community and continues to keep the kidnapping story alive.
The high sale price can be attributed in part to a large amount of attention in the Italian Jewish press paid to the painting’s rediscovery ahead of the sale. Though the painting was purchased by a private collector, Jennifer Roth, Senior Vice President of Israeli Art and Judaica told The Jewish Week that she anticipates “that the work will be shown in public in the future.”
The two highest selling pieces from the afternoon Israeli auction show two sides of Israel. “The Milkman,” by iconic Israeli artist Reuven Rubin, sold for $389,000. This piece is a classic Rubin, depicting a folkloric milkman, an often-repeated subject for him.
An untitled photo by Adi Nes was auctioned for $377,000, well over the $80-120,000 estimate. This print went to an Irish collector of old master paintings who was interested in Nes’s use of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper.”
According to Roth, this was a very international sale with buyers from North and South America, Europe, the UK and Israel.
Caroline Lagnado is an arts writer in New York.