On Tuesday evening, a rare oil painting by Claude Monet sold for a record-breaking $110.7 (£85.7 million) at a Sotheby’s sale in New York.
Monet’s painting, entitled Meules, was undoubtedly the most successful lot in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. The winning bid set a new artist record price for a piece by Monet, eclipsing the previous record of $84.7 million (£65.6 million).
It also marks the first time a work of Impressionist Art has sold for more than $100 million (£77.6 million) at auction, signaling the lasting power of Monet’s artworks.
“The longer you spend buying it, the longer you’ll spend enjoying it,” urged Harry Dalmeny, the auctioneer and chairman of Sotheby’s United Kingdom, as he welcomed higher and higher bids during the sale.
And in just eight short minutes, the staggering final sale price almost doubled the painting’s pre-auction estimate of $55 million (£42.6 million). Six bidders ardently battled for the masterpiece, but in the end the winning bid came from an anonymous collector.
Meules is one of 25 paintings in Monet’s “Haystacks” series, painted by the artist between 1890 and 1891 in the fields surrounding his home in Giverny, France. The vibrant piece depicts a row of haystacks in a rural landscape bathed in the warm evening light.
It is considered the crowning achievement of Monet’s rural series, with Sotheby’s declaring it as “the most evocative and glorious example.” In particular, this painting is especially significant in art historical terms because, for the first time, Monet decided to paint the same subject in differing atmospheric conditions.
Paintings in the “Haystack” series also rarely come up for sale at auction. Most of the series are now on display in museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 2000, only four “Haystack” paintings have appeared in auction houses.
After seeing the painting in the monumental 1891 Paris exhibition, Bertha Honoré Palmer first acquired Mueles in 1892. Palmer was the wife of wealthy Chicago businessman, Potter Palmer, and her wealth fueled her penchant for the fine arts. Until this week, Meules had not come up for sale since it was bought by a private collector in 1986 for $2.53 million (£1.96 million).
“They’re so evocative, so romantic and so easy to live with,” said Offer Waterman, a London-based dealer. Referring to Mueles, Waterman proclaimed “that was the best of the series that’s come up for auction. It was an amazing painting. And you just can’t get them.”
Sotheby’s overall sale, including fees, raised $349.9m (£270.9 million), with 91 per cent of the 56 lots up for auction sold. Whilst Mueles is now the ninth most expensive painting ever sold at auction, the controversial Salvator Mundi purportedly by Leonardo da Vinci remains at the top spot.