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Rubens’ painting sale smashes Polish art market records

A record has been broken on the Polish art market after a Rubens’ painting was sold for 14.4 million zlotys.

On March 17, the Desa Auction House in Warsaw auctioned the 17th-century “Portrait of a Lady” by Peter Paul Rubens. It is the first sale of this class of work on the Polish market. 

The outstanding canvas by the baroque master attracted the attention of art collectors not only from the CEE region, but globally. 

Rubens’ paintings rarely appear at auctions. Over the course of four centuries, the “Portrait of a Lady” has been in various prestigious collections of European aristocrats, financiers and famous collectors.

“The work, almost 400 years old, has remained in private hands over the last decades and has not been shown to the public since 1965. Portraits by the Flemish painter appear extremely rarely in Europe, while in Poland there has never been a work of art of such enormous historical, artistic and artistic value. investment,” says Juliusz Windorbski, President of DESA SA.

The painting shows a young woman with dark eyes and hair, dressed in a black velvet dress. For more than 300 years, the work was considered a portrait of Isabella Brant, Rubens’ first wife, but now believed to be of one of her sisters. Another hypothesis is that the model was a member of the Duarte family, influential Jewish jewelers from 17th century Antwerp. The characteristic jewels, which are part of the woman’s outfit, may speak to this theory. Recently performed restoration of the work, technological and stylistic and attributive research have confirmed the authorship of Rubens with the participation of his workshop.

Portraits painted by Rubens rarely appear at auctions, and collectors are willing to pay huge sums for them. In July 2020, “Portrait of a Young Woman Holding a Chain” was sold at Christie’s for almost £4 million, while Sotheby’s auction house issued “Portrait of a Lady in a Black Dress and Coat Against Red Drapery” three years earlier, selling for £3 million. Since 2002, the most expensive work of the Flemish painter is the monumental canvas “Massacre of the Innocents,” sold at Sotheby’s for £49.5 million, eight times higher than the top estimate. Right behind it is the painting “A Flight with Daughters,” for which the buyer paid £44.88 million in 2016.

Adam Białas
Adam Białas
construction and real estate market expert, manager and advisor in many projects with over 20 years of experience, business journalist. He also covers financials, (M&A, IPO-WSE, development and financing, Private Equity / VC funds), IT, HoReCa, MICE, digitization, e-commerce and gaming. For many years, he has been cooperating with the leading media in Poland and abroad, with the most important organizations in the sector and international chambers of commerce. Globetrotter, culture and art lover.
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