It was just by a sliver. This afternoon at Christie’s, when the Rothschild Prayerbook came up for sale, the final price including the premium was $13.605 million. Last time, in 1999, it fetched $13.379 million.
Considering that the book was sold in London last time, and therefore in pounds sterling, not dollars as today, the price could be construed as lower now. In pounds sterling, the price last time was £8,581,500 and today it was £8,215,583.
I was watching only online, so I could not tell who was bidding — the buyer was the phone, and there seemed to be one other bidder, possibly in the room. But it’s difficult to know if that bidder was real. Last time, according to reported accounts, there were five bidders — all ardent suitors.
The hammer price was $12 million — exactly at the low estimate of $12 million to $18 million.
This is a bit of a disappointment, if not necessarily a surprise. Experts outside of Christie’s told me that the illuminated manuscript market is notoriously difficult to discern. That Chinese bidder, who seemed so interested — according to Nicholas Hall, the Christie’s department chair — may not have come through. The Chinese bidding reputation might have suggested that.
On the other hand, maybe the buyer was the Getty — the underbidder last time. I await a press release.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christie’s