Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), born in Germany, was a renowned and prolific 17th--century Flemish painter. He was the protagonist of an energetic Baroque style that emphasized emotion, movement, color and sensuality.
Apart from painting historical, religious, mythological subjects and hunting scenes, Rubens also painted portraits and landscapes and genre scenes. Rubens’s compositions reflected a combination of the old style of Italian Renaissance with Italian Baroque aesthetics and portrayed immense spirit in the depiction of his subject matter.
His nudes of various biblical and mythological women, painted in Baroque style are especially well-known. He painted women as soft-bodied, submissive and highly sensuous beings, and his nudes accentuate the concepts of fertility, desire, physical beauty, temptation and virtue. Rubens used a large amount of grays, blues, greens and a variety of flesh tones and often incorporated deep and luscious reds and gold’s in his works.
Some of his well-known works are “The Descent from the Cross,” “Wolf and Fox Hunt” and “The Garden of Love.” Rubens became known as “the prince of painters and the painter of princes” during his career because of his frequent work for royal clients.
Rubens was an educated scholar and a diplomat as well; he was knighted by Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England.
Christie’s is featuring Rubens’s three artworks at its Old Masters Day Sale on July 6 in London.
Here is a performance analysis of Paul Rubens’s artworks in the auction market:
1. Sales Trend in the Past 20 Years
In 2002, Paul Rubens registered his highest ever in sales totaling $80 million just for 18 lots. That year, his painting “The Massacre of the Innocents” (presale estimates were $6.2 million to $9.3 million) fetched an astonishing value of £49.5 million ($76.7 million) at Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings -- Part I on July 10 in London and set a world record for the artist. The work represented the highest price for any Old Master sold at auction and the record was retained for 15 years.
Between 2003 and 2015, his sales remained very low, but in 2016 sales were bolstered by the sale of the masterpiece “Lot and his Daughters,” which fetched £44.8 million ($57.8 million). The work was Christie’s most expensive Old Master painting ever sold, and it was Rubens’s second highest work so far.
2. Volume of Artworks on Offer vs. Bought-in Rate
The graphic below shows the trend in terms of lots on offer in the 2007 to 2017 period, with 2015 reaching a peak of 97 lots. While 2015 had the highest ever volume of works in auctions, the bought-in rate was at an all-time high at 49.5 percent. As seen in section-1, 2015 registered a meager $7.1 million in total sales.
2016 was a better year for the artist, with a total sale of $69.3 million with a sale of 55 artworks and the bought-in rate was low at 28.6 percent.
3. Bought-ins by Auction Houses
An overall trend of the volume of artworks on offer, and the bought-in rates at the top two auction houses are shown below. The lots offered at Christie’s and Sotheby’s both were low as compared with the other auction houses. In the past four years, the bought-in rate was high at Christie’s compared with Sotheby’s.
4. Average and Median Sale Price Trend in the Past 20 Years
As seen in section-1, 2002 was the best year for the artist, with the average price registering at $4.4 million. Since 2002, the average price remained low and never reached $1 million until 2015. In 2015, two of his paintings were sold for over $1 million, but some of his high estimated works-- “Head of a bearded man” (estimated at $3.1 million to $4.6 million) and “Venus supplicating Jupiter” (estimated at $1.8 million to -2.8 million) were left unsold.
But in 2016, the average price reached $1.3 million, which can be attributed to the high value sale of his work “Lot and his Daughters” for $57.8 million.
5. Highest-Priced Artworks
Rubens’s top 10 sold works occurred at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
“Massacre of the Innocents” was his top-priced painting, which sold for $69.7 million (hammer) or $76.7 million (incl. buyer's premium) at Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings - Part I in London on July 10, 2002. A large work on oil panel, the painting is based on the biblically story of the massacre ordered by King Herod.
“Lot and his Daughters,” a monumental work painted in 1613-14 that captures one of the Bible’s most dramatic episodes with tremendous intensity, realized $57.8 million at Christie’s London on July 7, 2016.
His third highest work was “Portrait of a commander, three-quarter-length, being dressed for battle,”, the oil-on-panel artwork measuring 48 ¼ inches by 38 3/8 inches, sold for $13.6 million at Christie’s London on July 6, 2010
6. Price Band in Which His Works Have Sold in the Past 20 Years
Nearly 34 percent of his works were sold for less than $5,000 in the past 20 years. If we observe the stratification of sales volume by various price bands, two bands had almost the same selling rates at around 13 percent: works that sold in the price range of $5,000 to $10,000 and $100,000 to $1 million. Just 3.2 percent or 33 lots of his works have sold for over $1 million.
7. Where His Works Have Sold the Most in the Past 20 Years
In terms of total sales, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have a total share of 92.8 percent of the artist and the rest of the auction houses contribute 7.2 percent. In terms of volume, the artist seems to be selling the most of his artworks, or 53.7 percent, at auction houses other than Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
Based on the geographical location of sales of his works, the United Kingdom leads with $221.3 million, followed by the United States at $51.3 million and Austria, Germany, France with a combined $15.4 million.
8. Total Sales to date in 2018
Since January, Christie’s led with total sale of $5.7 million, followed by Dorotheum at $733,467. The graphic below represents total sales by the auction houses so far in 2018.
Founder Louise Blouin