Sotheby’s announced Friday morning that it will offer one of the most consistently sought-after trophies at its Impressionist and Modern evening sale in New York on May 14th: a painting of a haystack by Claude Monet. And it’s got a price tag to match, as Meules (1890) is estimated to sell for a price in excess of $55 million.
There’s precedence for such an astronomical figure, and $55 million would not even break the record for a Monet haystack. At Christie’s Imp-Mod evening sale in November 2016, a slew of bidders pushed the price of another work in the series from 1891 to $81.4 million with fees. The reason for the demand is that there are very few of the iconic images still in private hands. There are 25 canvases that depict this subject made over the course of 18 months in 1890 and 1891, and most of them are in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
This particular haystack work was previously in the collection of the Chicago socialites Potter and Bertha Palmer, who had a fortune in dry goods stores and built the mansion that established the blocks around Lake Shore Drive in the Windy City as the area known to this day as the Gold Coast. Bertha died in 1918, and the painting remained in the family until it was sold at auction in 1986, for $2.53 million. Since then it has remained in the same private collection, and will be seen in public for the first time when it is unveiled at Sotheby’s revamped New York headquarters on May 3rd.
In a statement, August Uribe, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist & Modern Art, said:
It is a privilege to present one of Claude Monet’s defining Impressionist paintings in our Evening Sale this May. One of the most recognizable images in art history, Monet’s Haystacks series has long served as an inspiration to countless artists since its creation in the early 1890s, and continues to inspire anyone who has viewed one of these canvases first hand.