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“Rare” is a word all too commonly employed by auction house marketing teams, but in the case of two panel paintings by the early 14th-century Sienese master Pietro Lorenzetti that sold at Paris auction house Tajan last evening, its use is justified. Rediscovered after more than a century, they join a body of around just 30 known works by the artist.
The first painting, depicting Pope Sylvester I, made €3m (with fees) against an estimate of €1.5m to €2m. The other, a portrayal of Saint Helena, more than doubled its €600,000 high estimate, achieving €1.6m (with fees). The discrepancy in price is due to the Sylvester painting being in a better state of conservation, according to the auction house’s catalogue notes.
Both works were bought by a US collector of contemporary art and a regular client of Tajan, according to an auction house press release.
They now rank as the second and third most-expensive works by Lorenzetti to ever sell at auction, the first being a large panel painting, Christ between Saints Paul and Peter, which made £5m (with fees) at Christie’s London in 2012.
These two paintings are the latest in a string of high profile Old Master rediscoveries by the company Cabinet Turquin, led by the art historian Eric Turquin. In recent years a number of headline grabbing finds have been credited to his agency, including the “lost Caravaggio” found in Toulouse and the “kitchen Cimabue” that sold to the Louvre for €24.1m. Cabinet Turquin works independently with a number of auction houses and takes a 5% cut of the sale price of the works it helps to rediscover.
Press coverage is essential for Turquin’s business: his team was contacted by the consignors of the two Lorenzettis, descendants of its last known owner, the 19th-century collector and high court magistrate Alfred Ramé, after they had read about the company’s previous discoveries in the news.