Old Masters Auction Market

While 2022 represented a record for Old Master sales over the last 5 years, reaching $691.8 Million in auction, we analyse this share of the art market. “European Old Master” genre include fine artworks created by European artists born between 1250 and 1820. It covers a variety of styles from the early Renaissance to Romanticism. Works with an identified artist have a minimum estimate of $500, and lots with a modifier, such as “school of,” “circle of,” “follower of”, must carry a minimum estimate of $2.000.

Old Master works sometimes present problems of identification or conservation. In our last newsletter, we analysed the results of Christie's New York sale, Old Masters Part I, and highlighted the interest in pieces that were 'fresh' to the art market, recently discovered or rediscovered, with interesting provenance and in an excellent condition.


The year 2022 represented a record for Old Masters sales over the last 5 years, reaching $691.8 M.

Source: Artnet

In 2022, $229.2 Million worth of European Old Master works sold for more than $10 Million each. That total was nearly $100 Million more than the previous high in 2021, when sales of lots over $10 Million totalled $129.8 Million.

Source: Artnet

The top 3 lots by sale price in the genre in the last years were all by Sandro Botticelli, together totaling more than $186 Million. At Sotheby’s Master Paintings and Sculptures Part I evening sale in January 2021,  Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel, went for nearly $92.2 Million. At the 2022 Sotheby’s Master Paintings and Sculpture, Botticelli’s Man of Sorrows, sold for $45.4 Million. Madonna of the Magnificat, reached $48.5 Million in the evening auction of the late Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen, in 2022.

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli
Portrait of a young man holding a roundel
tempera on poplar panel
58 x 39 cm
Sold for $92.184.000 by Sotheby’s New York, January 2021
Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli
Madonna of the Magnificat
Tempera, oil and gold on panel, tondo
Diameter: 62 cm
Sold for $48.480.000 by Christie’s New York, November 2022
Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli
The Man of Sorrows
Tempera and oil on panel
69 x 51 cm
Sold for $45.419.700 by Sotheby’s New York, January 2022

The US dominated the global European Old Master auction market in 2022, as the country’s auction houses realized a total of $296.1 Million in the genre – the highest total since 2018.  The UK, on the other hand, achieved less than half that amount in 2022 ($141.9 Million). This is explained in particular by an uneven distribution of the best-selling Old Masters lots. Of the 15 most expensive European Old Masters sold at auction in 2022, 7 were offered in the USA (including the top four), compared with 6 in the UK.

Source: Artnet

The French market generated $139.7 Million in sales of European Old Masters, an increase of almost 82% on the previous year. We note the sale of Jean Siméon Chardin‘s Panier de fraises des bois, which fetched €24.4 Million at an auction of Old Master and 19th-century works at Artcurial, and a rediscovered Michelangelodrawing, A nude man (after Masaccio) and two figures behind him, which fetched almost €23.2 Million at Christie’s Paris.

Jean-Siméon Chardin
Le panier de fraises des bois
Oil on canvas
38 × 46 cm
Sold for 24.381.400€ by Artcurial Paris, March 2022
Michelangelo Buonarroti
A nude man (after Masaccio) and two figures behind him
Pen and two shades of brown ink, brown wash, watermark
33 x 20 cm
Sold for 23.162.000€ by Christie’s Paris, May 2022

If we analyze the totals realized in the half-years of each year since 2018, total sales in the first half of 2023 reached a record total of $211.3 Million, an increase of over $21 Million (around 11% in value) on the previous peak reached in the first quarter of 2021. It should be noted that between 2016 and 2022, Christie’s only held sales of Old Master drawings in New York in the Q1, shifting Old Master painting auctions to its “Classic Week” during the second quarter. Only this year, Christie’s returned to a schedule aligned with Sotheby’s January European Old Masters sales in Q1 of 2023.

Source: Artnet


Old Masters is the smallest sector of the Fine Art auction market. To make it more attractive or give it greater visibility, it is often combined with Contemporary or Modern art at auctions, fairs or exhibitions.

European Old Master Paintings in auction houses’ Impressionist, Modern and Postwar & Contemporary sales.

Although each auction house has specialized sales for Old Masters, it is common to see lots in this category presented at Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary auctions. In November 2017, at a Christie’s New York Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Leonardo da Vinci‘s Salvator Mundi sold for over $450 MillionSotheby’s New York included Peter Paul Rubens‘ Portrait of a Man in Mars in its Modern Evening sale last May, where the painting sold for a hammer price of $22.5 Million.

Leonardo da Vinci
Salvator Mundi, c.1500
Oil on panel
65 x 45 cm
Sold $450 M by Christie’s New York, 2017
Peter Paul Rubens
Portrait of a Man as Mars, circa 1620
Oil on Baltic oak panel
85 x 67 cm
Estimate $20M – $30M
Sold for $26.926 M by Sotheby’s New York, 2023

Art fairs combine Contemporary Art and Old Masters.

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), originally devoted to ancient art, has for many years included works of modern and contemporary art in its exhibition. In 2015, the fair presented eight works of contemporary art in the middle of its traditional fair in Maastricht. This concept was repeated the following year, when an exhibition featuring 7 contemporary artists was held. TEFAF has since opened a second annual fair in New York, combining modern and contemporary art with design objects.

Before announcing its definitive closure at the beginning of the year, the last editions of the Masterpiece London fair had taken a similar direction, mixing ancient and contemporary art.

Art galleries have also made the link between the classic and the contemporary art.

In 2018, David Zwirner collaborated with old masters dealer Nicholas Hall on the exhibition Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art, with more than 90 works by artists, spanning different eras, from Hieronymous BoschFrancisco de Goya and Gustave Moreau to Francis AlÿsMichaël Borremans and Lisa Yuskavage. In December 2022, as part of Master Drawings New York, Sprüth Magers presented an exhibition dedicated to the work of Contemporary artist Karen Kilimnik alongside Renaissance works – from the 17th to the 19th century.


The Ultra-Contemporary art market, which has been booming in recent years, has seen the emergence of artists inspired by the old European masters.

Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977)

Wiley’s use of Old Master motifs to depict Black subjects. His lush, narratively rich canvases draw on textile patterns and the compositional tenets of Old Masters such as Peter Paul Rubens and Jacques-Louis David. He was selected by President Barack Obama in October 2017 to paint his official portrait for the National Portrait Gallery.

Kehinde Wiley
The Virgin Martyr St. Cecilia, 2009
Oil and graphite on paper
145 x 315 cm
Estimate $100.000 – $150.000 
Sold for $649.200 by Sotheby’s New York, November 2021


Anna Weyant (b. 1995)

Canadian artist Anna Weyant’s figurative paintings blend influence from the Dutch Golden Age with an awareness of contemporary popular culture and social media. She joigned Gagosian in May 2022. Last year, at Sotheby’s “The Now,” evening auction Anna Weyant landed an auction high with Falling Woman (2020) selling for$1.6 Million, which was well above the $200.000 high estimate. This beat her previous record set at Christie’s the week before, with Summertime (2020), sold for $1.5 Million. Her tunevor in 2022 was $7.7 Million

Anna Weyant
Falling Woman, 2020
122 x 91 cm
Sold for $1.6M by Sotheby’s New York, May 2022

Flora Yukhnovich (b. 1990)

Flora Yukhnovich is a British painter, who is inspired by the rococo aesthetic. She set a new auction record in 2022 with $3.6 Million at auction (March 2022, Sothebys London), for Warm, Wet ‘N’ Wild (2020). In 2022, her turnover was $11.8 Million

Flora Yukhnovich
Warms, Net ‘N’ Wild, 2020
210 x 179 cm
Sold for $3.6M by Sotheby’s London, March 2022


Ewa Juszkiewicz (b. 1984)

One of the most celebrated contemporary Polish painters, Ewa Juszkiewicz confronts stereotypical perceptions of women’s beauty in classical European painting. She is represented by Gagosian and Almine Rech. In 2022, her painting Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly) was sold for $1.5 Million, well above its $300.000 high estimate at Christie’s 21st-century evening sale. The same year, her turnover was $5.1 Million.

Ewa Juskiewicz
Portrait of a Lady (After Louis Leopold Boilly), 2019
Sold for $1.5M

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