As a Met board member, Mark Fish was behind some of the museum’s greatest achievements. As a private citizen, the retired real estate developer is now after one of the most valuable old masterpieces to come up for auction.
When Sotheby’s opens Masters Week on January 26, 2023, all eyes will be on Peter Paul Rubens Salome was presented with the severed head of St. John the BaptistIn early 1998, a major work was rediscovered. Experts estimate it will sell for $35 million, more than five times the price paid for it at a 1998 New York Sotheby’s auction, then a record for a Rubin work.
The 1609 work is one of 10 paintings in the Fish Davidson Collection, which came to Sotheby’s due to a long-running divorce between Fish and Rachel Davidson, a former New Jersey judge. Featuring 17th- and 18th-century masterpieces by Orazio Gentileschi, Valentino de Boulogne and Bernardo Cavalino, the auction house marks “one of the most important collections of Baroque art to appear on the market”.
Off the auction block, separation is notable for its potential to have a long-term impact on divorce proceedings in New York State. Lawyers for wealthy clients seeking divorce often race to file first, often in smaller counties where they feel judges will be more conservative and biased toward wealthy men. The practice is known as “forum shopping”. Fish’s attempt to file in Suffolk County, where the couple’s $4 million Southampton vacation home is located, however, was rejected by an appeals court, forcing him to file for divorce in Manhattan. Stop the case.
Ahead of the January auction, paintings from the collection, valued at a total of $177 million, were exhibited at Sotheby’s in New York, and will later be exhibited at locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. . Along with Rubin, highlights include Repentant Saint Mary Magdalene, A late Renaissance work by Orazio Gentilesi ($4 million to $6 million), and a recently discovered painting by Georges de la Tour, a leading artist of the French Caravaggio movement, St. James Luther ($3.5 million to $5 million). Also of interest is Valentin de Boulogne Christ crowned with thorns ($4 million to $6 million), depicting a placid-faced Jesus being tormented, the early Baroque work sold for $5.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2016.
The Fish Davidson Collection auction followed in the wake of other famous divorce sales, such as the Macklow Collection, which fetched $922 million, the most valuable collection ever sold at auction, also at Sotheby’s. The January sale may not have the power of works by Warhol, Rothko and Richter all hitting the market at the same time, but the circumstances surrounding the 2023 event are no less grim.
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