Elizabeth Taylor’s Hals Fetches $2.1 Million at Christie’s

26 January 2012

A Frans Hals formerly owned by Elizabeth Taylor fetched $2.1 million at Christie’s Old Masters sale in New York.

“Portrait of a Gentleman, Half-Length, in a Black Coat” was expected to sell for $700,000 to $1 million.

Painted in the early 1630s, the work was likely a gift from the actress’s father, art dealer Francis Taylor. It hung over a fireplace in her Bel Air home. Previously thought to be by a Hals follower, it was attributed to the Dutch master in 2011, Christie’s said.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s Old Master auctions in New York are estimated to total as much as $194 million. Sotheby’s sale is tomorrow.

“The Old Masters are dirt cheap compared to modern pictures,” said New York-based art dealer Richard Feigen. “There are very few great paintings coming up anymore; people won’t sell them.”

A work with the sale’s highest presale estimate, Hans Memling’s “The Virgin Mary Nursing the Christ Child,” failed to sell. Christie’s had expected $6 million to $8 million for the small, round panel by the 15th-century Flemish master. The auction house had a financial interest in the piece, according to the catalog.

Another flop was Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s invertible portrait of a man, possibly Emperor Rudolf II, whose features are made of fruit topped by a wicker basket (inverted, it’s a still life). The work’s presale estimate was $3 million to $5 million. It was only recently attributed to the 16th-century Milan-born painter.

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