A recently discovered work by Artemisia Gentileschi sold on Wednesday for a hammer price of €4 million ($4.4 million), or €4.7 million ($5.2 million) with fees, smashing the Baroque master’s auction record. The work, Lucretia (1630s), was being offered at Paris’s Artcurial auction house with a pre-sale estimate of €600,000 to €800,000 ($661,000–881,000), but competition among six bidders drove the price past its high estimate. According to the auction house, the buyer was a European collector.
In a joint statement, the director of Artcurial’s Old Masters department, Matthieu Fournier, and dealer Eric Turquin said: “Interest in Old Masters paintings is stronger and stronger; for the first time, we are seeing contemporary art collectors migrating toward older art.”
The result for Lucretia at Wednesday’s sale more than doubled Gentileschi’s previous auction record of €1.8 million ($2.1 million), set at a Paris auction in December 2017 by Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (ca. 1615–17). The National Gallery in London subsequently acquired that painting for £3.6 million ($4.8 million), making it the first work by a female artist added to its permanent collection in 27 years.
That major acquisition, plus Gentileschi’s emergence as an important historical figure in the context of the #MeToo movement—through her story of bringing the instructor who raped her to justice, plus her iconic painting of female rage, Judith Slaying Holofernes (1610)—have fueled greater interest in her work in the art market and among institutions. The National Gallery is organizing a major exhibition of her work that will open in April 2020.