Rodin sculpture sells for £11.6m at auction

A sculpture of a nude woman by Auguste Rodin, which once belonged to actor Sylvester Stallone set a new record for the artist at auction in London on Wednesday night (3 February).

‘Iris, Messagère des adieux’ (1902-05) sold for £11.6 million during Sotheby’s evening sale after only five minutes of bidding. Expected to fetch between £6-8 million, it surpassed the previous auction record for Rodin held by his sculpture of Eve, which sold for £9.6 million in New York in 2008. The winning bidder for ‘Iris’ is believed to have been Ben Frija, a dealer from Oslo. 

The bronze work is said to suggest a gymnast stretching her legs or the movement of a French cancan dancer. According to the Musée Rodin in Paris, the sculpture “aroused not only indignation but also fascination” at the time of its creation. As one of only two casts made during Rodin’s lifetime still in private hands it is very rare.

The exceptional sale represented a high point in what some pundits are describing as an otherwise lacklustre auction season in London. “Solid” but largely unspectacular results were reported at this week’s Impressionist and Modern and Surrealist sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

According toThe Art Newspaper, Christie’s took a total of £95.9 million with premium at its evening sale on Tuesday (2 February). At Sotheby’s, the Wednesday evening (3 February) sale total was £93.7 million with premium, falling short of the £97 million pre-sale estimate.

For some experts, the uninspiring results came as no surprise in an overheated market. Chief executive of London’s Masterpiece art fair, Nazy Vassegh, appeared almost to welcome the change in pace:

“This is an evolution in the market and certainly not a bloodshed: it’s the correction we’ve all been anticipating,” she said.

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