An oil painting of Saint Peter attributed to Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, sold for £791,650 against a pre-sale estimate of £40,000 – 60,000 at Bonhams yesterday, 5th December 2012.
Bidders on the phone and in a packed saleroom entered a tense battle for the striking work, which made over ten times the pre-sale estimate. Other pieces in the sale, which realized a total of £2 million, also exceeded their estimates with a portrait of a gentleman by Dutch painter Jacob Adriaensz Backer selling for £103,250 against an estimate of £20,000 – 30,000.
Certain stylistic features in the Saint Peter painting, such as the painter’s three-dimensional and naturalistic handling of the figure are comparable to works that El Greco painted in his late Roman and early Spanish period.
Andrew McKenzie, Director of Old Master Paintings said, “The painting was a totally new discovery on our part which was the result of our extensive research. Owing to the notorious difficulties in distinguishing between those authentic works that can be absolutely verified to be by El Greco and workshop variants, we attributed the painting to the artist in our catalog description with an appropriately cautious estimate. However, the enthusiasm we received both prior to and during the sale was a resounding endorsement of this attribution and we are delighted with the outcome.”