Several stunning record bids were made during a sale of Old Master paintings held by Sotheby's on July 10th 2002 in London, which brought £ 67,6 million, the highest ever total for an auction of Old Master works.
A completely unknown painting on panel by Peter-Paul Rubens titled “The Massacre of the Innocents” fetched an incredible price of £ 49, 506, 650 ($ 76,7 million) against a high estimate of £ 6 million but a another work by the same artist representing a portrait of a man as the God Mars only reached £ 4,406,650. Meanwhile, a portrait of a young woman by Rembrandt remained unsold after failing to reach its 10 to 15 million estimate.
Rembrandt's portrait unsold (Sotheby's)
The massacre of the Innocents by Rubens (Sotheby's)
The record price fetched for the Rubens was also a record for an Old Master painting at auction.
Sotheby's head of the Old Master paintings department in London Alex Bell said he was absolutely delighted with such result. The Massacre of the Innocents recently identified by Sotheby's had been misattributed since the first half of the 18th Century.
Bidding for the painting began at £ 3 million and quickly rose to £ 6 million. Then the auctioneer Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby's Europe said:" Now, I'll take £ 12 million!" and bidding increased steadily in million-pound increments with eight bidders entering the fray, five actively competing over £ 25 million. Four of the bidders were in the salesroom and others were bidding on the telephone. The successful bidder was Sam Fogg, a London dealer in Western and Oriental manuscripts who was acting for a private collector.
The sale also set price records, notably for Ambrosius Bosschaert, Il Guercino, Balthasar van der Ast and Gerrit Andriaensz Berckeyde.