Khnopff’s Medusa sketch tops sale of works from Isabel Goldsmith collection at Christie’s

Fernand Khnopff drawing


La Médusa endormia by Fernand Khnopff – £280,000 at Christie’s.

Goldsmith, 68, the daughter of financier of Sir James Goldsmith and Bolivian heiress Maria Isabel Patiño, was one of a quartet of wealthy collectors that helped revive the Victorian art market in the 1980s-90s (along with Christopher ‘Kip’ Forbes, Lord Lloyd Webber and John Schaeffer).

While she has sold a number of works from her collection with Christie’s since 2005, here the auction house offered a group of 86 Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist works in a dedicated online sale that closed on July 14. With 68 lots sold (79%) , it raised a total of £1.53m including premium.

The top lot was Khnopff’s La Médusa endormiaan 11.5 x 5.25in (29 x 13 cm) pencil and pastel on paper from c.1896.

Like his friend the British Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones, the Anglophile Belgian artist produced a number of works portraying the Greek mythological character Medusa during his career, including sculptures, sketches and prints. This example, with its subtle gradations of tone, was described in the auction catalog as having a ‘heavy and mysterious atmosphere, perfectly suited to the femme fatale he depicts’.

Goldsmith had purchased it at Christie’s back in 1988 for a hammer price of £120,000 – approximately £270,000 in today’s money adjusting for inflation.

Here it was estimated at £200,000-300,000 and sold at £280,000 (£352,800 including premium) to a US private buyer. The price was a record for a work on paper by Khnopff.

In a presale promotional video produced for the auction, Goldsmith said: “I love my paintings and now feel it is time for them to be loved and enjoyed by others”.

Further highlights from the sale appear below.

The buyer’s premium at Christie’s was 26/20/14.5%.

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