Masterworks of The I. Bischoff Collection Georges de La Tour

International auction records and the most expensive old master ever auctioned in Germany

The extraordinary high point of the auction season this autumn, not only for Lempertz in its 175th year but also in Germany, was the sale of 22 important treasures of Old Master art (including two modern works) from the I. Bischoff Collection; the outstanding highlight amongst them was the last ‘nocturne’ by Georges de La Tour from private hands which has now become the most expensive old master ever sold in Germany – the result of 4.34 million euro is an international record price for the artist. A further international record price with 1.58 million euro was achieved by a painting by Quinten Massys.

These masterworks from the collection of the entrepreneur Hinrich Bischoff (1936 – 2005) formed the brilliant final chord of Lempertz’ 175th jubilee. Alongside Georges de La Tour, works were offered by Marinus van Reymerswale, Quinten Massys, Osias Beert The Elder, Philips Wouwerman, Conrad Faber von Kreuznach, amongst others, up to Edouard Vuillard and Lovis Corinth.

The auction was a spectacular success with a total of two international records, two hammer prices in the millions and six six-figure results, with a total outcome of 8.4 million euro.

With 4.34 million euro for “La Fillette au braisier” by Georges de La Tour – an international record price for the artist –, Lempertz surpassed its own standing German auction old master painting record of 3.8 million euro for a painting by Gerard Dou from the highly important old master Frank collection in 2012.

The highlight of the auction was undoubtedly “La Fillette au braisier” (Girl blowing on a brasier), the last remaining “nocturne” in private hands by the exceptional painter Georges de La Tour(1593 – 1652), the great master of Lorraine, from whom only 48 paintings have been verified. Painted in 1646, Bischoff acquired the painting in 1975 and in the years that followed, it was presented in numerous museum exhibitions throughout Europe including the Grand Palais, Paris, and the Museo Nacional del Prado. The picture now moves to an overseas museum after competing in a bidding war against, amongst others, another overseas museum (lot 11, € 3/4 million euro).

A further shining star with a result of 1.58 million euro – also an international record price for the artist – was the equally rare devotional picture depicting Maria praying by Quinten Massys, the leading painter in Renaissance Antwerp. The small panel, dated to around 1520, captivates with the quality of the painting as well as the sensitivity of the representation – it is comparable to a devotional picture in the Museo Nacional del Prado (lot 4, € 500/700,000).

Also keenly sought after was the small painting on copper “Still life with a wine glass à la façon de Venise and a pewter plate with candied fruit” by Osias Beert the Elder, which was pushed from its estimate of € 60/80,000 up to € 375,000 (lot 10).

“The Money Lender” by the Dutch painter Marinus van Reymerswale (around 1497 – 1567) – the only known painting of this theme by his hand – changed owners for € 325,000. Originals by this eccentric contemporary-critical artist, are extraordinarily rare. The present painting is the most important picture by Marinus van Reymerswale offered on the international art market in the last 30 years (lot 8, €200/300,000).

Hinrich Bischoff was a successful businessman in the aviation industry (for example, founder of the ‘Germania Fluggesellschaft’) and a passionate collector, who acquired huge knowledge and a much-admired connoisseurship of Dutch and German painting of the 16th and 17th centuries. Both characteristics formed the guideline of his high-carat and remarkable collection.

With the sale of works from the I. Bischoff Collection, in its 175th year, Lempertz has emphatically underlined its leading position in the market for Old Masters.