Best of 2016: record-setting auctions, world records, and top results

2016 Dorotheum retrospective

2016: prices in the millions and world records


2016 was a success in every sense of the word for Dorotheum, the largest auction house in the German-speaking world. 

A superlative year

2016 was the best-ever year for the ‘old master paintings’ category as well as the best results for a single auction results and best total auction results for the ‘classic cars’ category. In addition, June saw the best auction results for the ‘contemporary art’ category, and November witnessed the best ‘modern art’ auction results in Dorotheum’s history.

Prices of a million or more

€1,200,000:    ‘Nativity’ from the workshop of Hans Memling
€1,067,000:    1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
€1,022,500:    ‘Baptême de masques’ byJames Ensor
€1,022,500:    ‘Fleurs’ by Marc Chagall

The ‘Nativity’ from the workshop of Hans Memling sold for a sensational €1.2 million, putting it at the top of the million-or-more tier of prices that Dorotheum achieved this year for works of art. A red 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL that garnered €1,067,000 in the fall comes in at a close second, followed by the newly discovered figure painting ‘Baptême de masques’ by the Belgian loner James Ensor (€1,022,500) and a 1924 floral still-life painting by March Chagall (more than €1 million).


New records set

Julije Knifer, Kompozicija no. 12, 1969
Julije Knifer, Kompozicija no. 12, 1969

Dorotheum achieved world records in numerous categories in 2016. In the ‘contemporary art’ category, Julije Knifer’s ‘Kompozicija no. 12’ achieved €161,600, thus breaking its own world-record price for a work by the Croatian artist (€137,200) from May of the same year. The auction house also set world records for works by the artists Rudolfo Aricò and Emilio Scanavino in 2016. The year was generally a strong one for Italian art, and in particular for Lucio Fontana, whose monochrome blue slitted work, ‘Concetto spaziale, Attese’, raked in €735,000. Dorotheum set a further auction record for price paid – €234,800, in this case – for a work by Carla Accardi.

The ’19th century paintings’ category also set numerous records: €125,000 for a painting by Henri Camille Danger, €100,000 for Ulisse Caputo’s ‘Piano Player’ as well as for ‘The Virgin Mary in the “Hortus Conclusus”‘ by Johann Evangelist Scheffer von Leonhardshoff. Pietro Galter’s ‘At the entrance to the Grand Canal in Venice’ achieved a world record for price (€112,500), as did a lush still life by Francois Halert (€247,000) in the ‘old master paintings’ category.


Austrian art

Josef Engelhart's Merlin Legend (details)
Josef Engelhart’s Merlin Legend (details)

Austrian art was among the top performers. Paintings by the Vienna Secessionist Josef Engelhart obtained world-record prices at the ‘modern art’ auction. Nine of the artist’s nearly life-size drawings for his ‘Legend of Merlin’, a work commissioned for the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, garnered a fantastic €582,400. The €50,000 that a bidder shelled out for a still-life by Franz Xaver Gruber, dubbed ‘Distlgruber’,  were this highest price paid at auction to date for a painting by the artist.

As further attestments to the excellent earning power of Austrian art at Dorotheum in 2016, works by Franz West and Maria Lassnig procured top prices amongst the contemporary art offerings. In the ‘modern art’ category, a Venetian scene by Carl Moll went for €176,670, while a bidder plopped down €344,600 for Alfons Walde’s ‘Lonely Mountain Cabin’.


Carl Moll, Santa Maria della Salute, 1923
Carl Moll, Santa Maria della Salute, 1923


Top results of 2016

Tom Wesselmann, Nancy Scribble", 1983
Tom Wesselmann, ‘Nancy Scribble’, 1983

Bidders paid top dollar for postwar Italian and German modern art in 2016 – including for works by Tano Festa, Paolo Scheggi, Enrico Castellani, and Giuseppe Uncini  as well as for Günter Uecker, Adolf Luther, Gerhard Richter und Ulf Wilding, respectively. Amongst the most sought-after artworks internationally were a portrait of a woman (‘Nancy Scribble’, €350,508) by the American artist Tom Wesselmann and a bronze ‘bather’ by Fernando Botero (€344,600).




Giacomo Balla, Valori plastici, c. 1929
Giacomo Balla, Valori plastici, circa 1929

In the ‘modern art’ category, a hallmark Futurist work, ‘Valori Plastici’, by Giacomo Balla, went for €320,000. ‘Landscape with Three Trees’ by the German Expressionist Otto Mueller achieved € 234,800.






Old master paintings enjoy their best year ever

Italian old master paintings put in their most successful performance in the auction house’s history.

Jacopo Tintoretto (Venice 1519-1594) The Battle between the Philistines and the Israelites
Jacopo Tintoretto (Venice 1519-1594) The Battle between the Philistines and the Israelites

Alongside Hans Memling’s workshop, a new discovery by Jacopo Tintoretto made the ‘A’ list. The artist’s portrayal of David’s battle with Goliath, classifiable as a masterpiece by the Venetian Mannerist master for the first time, garnered €907,500. 500 years after the death the godfather of Surrealism, Hieronymus Bosch, the painting ‘Hell’ (a motif from the “Garden of Earthly Delights,’ which is housed at the Prado) by a successor of the artist achieved a breath-taking €527,600. ‘The Judgment of Paris’, a newly discovered painting from Peter Paul Rubens’ workshop, cashed in €868,733. A further new discovery and a significant early work by Guido Reni, ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’, sold for €491,000. Huybrecht Bueckeleer’s painting ‘The Holy Family with Saint Anne’, from a private collection in southern Germany, achieved an excellent €430,742.


In the hot seat of style

Franz West, six "Kodu" chairs
Franz West, six “Kodu” chairs

Six ‘Kodu-chairs’ by Franz West, designed in 1999, sold for €106,250 at the ‘design’ auction, placing them alongside a bench that Josef Hoffmann designed for the Purkersdorf Sanatorium (€94,255) as top sellers.



Wiener Werkstätte

Josef Hoffmann was also the biggest name at Dorotheum’s Dezember 2016 ‘Jugendstil and Art Nouveau’ auction. Works by this world-class artist and poster child of Austrian art sold like hotcakes. A silver teapot that was produced by the Wiener Werkstätte in 1905 achieved a staggering €149,900. A silver muff necklace by Kolo Moser created a sensation at the spring auction. The piece had been a gift from Gustav Klimt to his friend and muse Emilie Flöge (€198,200).

Delicate splendour

A porcelain connoisseur paid a jaw-dropping €247,000 for a pair of 19th century guelder rose vases from Meißen that were designed by Johann Joachim Kändler.


2016 marked a commemorative year for Emperor Franz Joseph and will also go down in history as the year a devotee of the Imperial Dynasty paid €68,750 for the late monarch’s travel service.

Reinhold Hofstätter

The original art and interior decor collection of the legendary Vienna art dealer Reinhold Hofstätter (1927–2013) drew great international interest at Dorotheum Vienna’s tremendously successful auction in September.  The auction featured some 400 paintings and antiques from Hofstätter’s summer residence at Schwallenbach Castle in the Wachau Valley in Lower Austria. Among the most coveted items was Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s painting ‘Leavetaking’, which sold for €203,411.

A scintillating close

Bulgari, diamond ring, price achieved €87,500
Bulgari, diamond ring, price achieved €87,500

The high demand for jewellery continued in 2016. Among the most notable sellers were large-stone jewels, particularly diamonds, and products by well-known brands such as Bulgari. The 130-lot auction of ‘kinetic jewellery’ by the German goldsmith and ZERO artist Friedrich Becker were testament to contemporary creations’ powerful sales potential in this segment.


Shown above:

Hans Memling Werkstatt, Nativity
price realised €1,200.000
James Ensor, Bapteme de masques
price realised €1,022.500
Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa, 1967/1968
price realised €735,000
1958 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
price realised €1,067,000


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