• Bianca Mafodda

The 2022 Art Auction Market Is Off to a Sparkling Start!

In the first three months of the current year, three major auctions will take place both in Europe and in the United States.


Let’s start from the first of the three outstanding appointments: January 17th, 2022, has been marked by a historic auction in the art real estate market, that of the Casino Ludovisi in the Ludovisi neighbourhood in Rome, inside which lays the only mural painting ever produced by the Renaissance painter Caravaggio (1571-1610; fig. 1). The estimated value of the estate has been declared to be €471 million, with the restoration price of €11 million excluded, and the minimum bidding has started at €353 million: the sale has of course attracted a lot of attention and media coverage - both national and international - due to its incredible value and many reporters have even referred to this auction as the “auction of the century”!


Fig. 1 – Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, Caravaggio, Casino Ludovisi (© Artribune)


This 16th century mansion was originally part of a larger villa, of which nothing else remains today - called Villa Ludovisi and belonging to the Ludovisi noble family since 1622. Before this, the Casino was property of Cardinal Del Monte, one of the major patrons of Caravaggio. The Casino in fact houses three masterpieces of all times: other than the aforementioned Caravaggio mural painted in 1597 representing Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto (fig. 1), that alone has been estimated to be worth €310 million, the mansion also houses the two most famous frescos by the Italian Renaissance painter Guercino (1591-1666), L’Aurora (fig. 2) and La Fama, portraying the Aurora goddess and Fame, each one decorating the ceilings of the two biggest halls of the mansion. The auction might thus set a new record for old-master’s art, which is today held by Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which has been sold for the huge sum of $450.3 million at Christie’s.

Unfortunately, the sale has been a flop, with a 24-hour long online auction that went desert, with not even one bid. The sale has thus been rescheduled for April 7 and the price should be lowered by 20% the original value. We can’t wait for it to be April already!


Fig. 2 – L’aurora, Guercino, Casino Ludovisi (© Artribune)


The other auction that we want to shed a light on will take place on the 27th of January in the New York headquarters of Sotheby’s and it will see another Renaissance masterpiece as the highlight of the action, Sandro Botticelli’s late panel The Man of Sorrows (fig. 3). The estimate has today reached $40 million in value, but this sum is expected to be exceeded given that another similar panel by the same artist, Portrait of a young man holding a roundel has been sold by the same auction house for the record sum of $92 million in January 2020. Moreover, thanks to the infrared lighting, a covered drawing of a Madonna and Child has recently been discovered under the paint, giving us more more reason to fall in love with this incredible Old-Masters painting!


Fig. 3 – Sandro Botticelli, The Man of Sorrows, Sotheby’s auction (© Sotheby’s)


Sotheby’s will also auction one more masterpiece, this time by the Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte (1898-1967). It is one of the 17 paintings from Empire of Lights series, and apparently the most “charismatic” one, as stated by the president of Sotheby’s’ Europe Helena Newman. The work was produced in 1961 for the daughter of Magritte’s best friend and patron of the Surrealists Pierre Croue, named Anne-Marie Gillion Croue. Specialists at Christies’ are expecting The Empire of Lights to set a new auction record for Magritte’s artworks, winning his current record of $27 million for his Le principe du plasir, auctioned by Sotheby’s on November 2018, and they might be right: Magritte’s price index has already had a 353% increase in sales since 2000, as the demand for surrealist painters is stronger than ever (fig. 4). The first trimester of 2022 seems to be ready to really please every artistic taste!


Fig. 4 - a chronological analysis of the number of lots sold at auction reveals

a peak in demand for René Magritte (© Artprice.com)