The Old Master Sales held during the first week of December 2017 in London totaled 58 million GBP altogether at Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams showing there was renewied interest in these paintings.
There were in fact a number of re-discoveries to explain the success of these sales, notably regarding a portrait of Petronella Buysonce accepted as a Rembrandt before it was demoted in 1989 by the Rembrandt Research Project which believed it was painted by a studio assistant despite being one of a pair of portraits along with her husband.
It was hard to believe that Rembrandt did not paint only one-half of a commissioned pair, notwithstanding the fact that his so-called assistant remained unknown. Therefore, Christie's decided to put Petronella in its sale, fully catalogued as a Rembrandt with however a cautious estimate of around 1.5million-2.5million GBP estimate whereas it sold for 3.4 million with fees, still a modest price for a Rembrandt work bought apparently by Johnny van Haeften, the former dealer who now advises clients, on behalf of the Leiden Collection which has a few Rembrandts already.
A John Constable oil sketch for his 1817 painting The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, owned today by the Tate, which had been discovered under the stairs of a London house whose owners had no knowledge of its authorship went for 2.3 million GBP against an estimate of 1 million.
However, some paintings were sold under what they were paid for previously, notably a 1636 portrait of the Countess of Carnarvon by Anthony van Dyck, bought in 2010 by the late Robert de Balkany for 1.6 million GBP, which only fetched 585,000 GBP.
Meanwhile, a masterpiece of northern European mannerism by Bartholomeus Spranger, which had been looted by the Nazis and was returned last month to the victim's descendants, sold at Christie's for six times its estimate at 4.5 million GBP in favour of a Belgian buyer.