Global Top Ten antique prints



Friday is Top day! Every other Friday, Artprice publishes a theme-based auction ranking. This week: the Top Ten antique prints.

Global Top Ten antique prints
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Katsushika HOKUSAI 1 341 360$ Fugaku Sanjurokkei, vues du Mont Fuji (c.1830-1835) 27/11/2002 (Sotheby’s PARIS)
2 Odilon REDON 1 200 000$ Tentation de Saint Antoine – Texte de Gustave Flaubert (1888) 29/10/2013 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
3 REMBRANDT VAN RIJN 990 000$ Christ crucified between the two Thieves: The three Crosses () 28/5/1990 (William Doyle NEW YORK NY)
4 Odilon REDON 850 000$ Pegase captive – 1er état (1889) 29/10/2013 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
5 REMBRANDT VAN RIJN 835 000$ Christ presented to the People: oblong plate (1655) 10/12/1991 (Christie’s LONDON)
6 REMBRANDT VAN RIJN 811 226$ Christ crucified between the two Thieves: The Three Crosses (c.1653-1661) 5/12/2006 (Christie’s LONDON)
7 Paul GAUGUIN 767 808$ Crouching Tahitian Woman Seen from the Back (c.1901/02) 30/3/2011 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
8 Albrecht DÜRER 720 000$ The Rhinoceros (1515) 29/01/2013 (Christie’s NEW YORK NY)
9 Hiroshige ANDO 715 824$ «The one Hundred Famous Views od Edo» () 20/06/2002 (Sotheby’s LONDON)
10 Paul GAUGUIN 714 220$ Famille Tahitienne (c.1902) 04/12/1998 (Briest PARIS)

This ranking provides an overview of the best hammer prices registered throughout the world for antique prints (without any additions by hand), i.e. those produced by artists born before 1850. Apart from the two Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige, who owe their presence in this ranking to their famous series on Mount Fuji and Edo respectively, four European artists are established as the highest rated in the genre, thanks to some single prints – not sets. Engraving, an art in itself, has made further inroads this year with three new records, all set in New York.

Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige: the law of seriesOne opens this Top 10, while the other virtually concludes it. Together with Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai was one of the leading landscape artists of the Japanese school. While selling for affordable prices when single (nearly half Hokusai’s works sell for under $3,000, and Hiroshige’s for under $1,000), prints reach record heights as a set.
Hokusai was highly successful with his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, a set that in fact contains 46 plates, and mixes Japanese tradition with a Western perspective. A complete Mount Fuji set published between 1830 and 1835, sold at Sotheby’s Paris in 2002, brought it the highest bid in history in the “antique print” category: $1.13 million (a hammer price of €1,350,000 on 27 November 2002). Incidentally, this is the artist’s only sale of over a million.
The Mount Fuji prints are some of the most famous in the world. They had a powerful impact on several modern Western masters, including Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, as did the Tokaïdo Gojusan Tsuji-no Uchi by Utagawa Hiroshige. Consisting of 53 prints of the Tokaido (road) between Edo and Kyoto, the set was published for the first time in 1833-1834 and met with such success that it was repeated 15 times by the artist, up to 1855. This series has reached $180,000 at auction, but an even larger series of 120 plates holds the absolute record for Hiroshige: £480,000, i.e. over $715,000 (The One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 20 June 2002, Sotheby’s London).

Rembrandt Van Rijn
The master of the Dutch School left a prolific body of work, including some 600 paintings, 300 prints and 1,400 drawings. Half of his works can be obtained at auction for less than $3,600, thanks to the large number of etchings, of which there are numerous variations in terms of their various states (several stages of work for the same subject) and quality of preservation. Where painting is concerned, Rembrandt’s top price is $29,577,600 for the portrait of a man sold at Christie’s London on 8 December 2009 (Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, knocked down for £18 million), while two ink drawings obtained a million in 2000. With engravings alone, the artist has come close to the million mark thanks to a record that is already old, dating back to the speculative bubble of 1990.
This ranking of antique prints contains one that appears twice: Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (1653, dry point and burin. 373 x 428 mm, first state. 385 x 450 mm as from the second state; five states). Only twelve plates of the Three Crosses have appeared at auction in the last 25 years. One posted a record bid of $990,000 in 1990. At the beginning of 2013, a fourth state of the Three Crosses sold for the equivalent of $272,000 at Sotheby’s London (£180,000, 19 March 2013). Prices are thus very variable depending on the quality of the print.
The pendant to this depiction of the Calvary scene, Christ Presented to the People, is the third plate in the artist’s record, and lies eighth in the top bids for antique prints. These two works, the Three Crosses and the Presentation of Christ, are the artist’s largest prints and were both produced at the end of his career as an engraver. Their supernatural atmosphere and powerful blacks had a considerable influence on later artists, notably Odilon Redon, who also features in this Top Ten.

Two contemporaries: Odilon Redon and Paul Gauguin
Their independence and modern vision have made them two of the most highly-sought-after artists in the realm of engraving. Odilon Redon and Paul Gauguin probably first met in 1886 at the last Impressionist exhibition, in which they both took part. After that, they developed a friendship imbued with mutual artistic respect.
Each of them features twice in this Top Ten but Odilon Redon has taken a considerable lead this year thanks to two record bids at Christie’s New York on 29 October 2013. Redon first tried to dissuade Gauguin from going to Tahiti, then came to admire his friend’s courage and determination in seeking distance in order to return to his beginnings. Tahiti was where Gauguin produced his best works, with their raw, expressive character, particularly monotypes and woodcuts. Three monotypes produced on the island have already passed the $500,000 mark since 1994. Engravings make up the lions’ share of the artist’s market: nearly 62% of transactions, compared with nearly 20% with drawings, and 10% with works on canvas.

The oldest: Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)Albrecht Dürer rose to ninth place in the Top Ten antique prints thanks to a historic sale staged at the beginning of 2013 by Christie’s, which was entirely devoted to the German Renaissance master (29 January 2013). This dispersion featuring 62 engravings, with estimates between $3,000 and $600,000, garnered over $4.9 million excluding buyer’s premiums at Christie’s, and posted a new world record with a woodcut, The Rhinoceros, knocked down for $720,000. This somewhat imaginative representation (Dürer never actually saw a rhinoceros) produced in 1515 is one of the most famous prints in the world, like the Views of Mount Fuji, and had a huge influence on later generations.