NEW YORK, NY.- Moments ago in a packed salesroom at Sotheby’s New York, Claude Monet’s Meules from 1890 — one of art history’s most evocative images – sold for $110.7 million. The result marks a new world auction record for any work by Claude Monet and the first work of Impressionist art to cross the $100 million threshold at auction.
Meules is one of only four works from Monet’s acclaimed Haystacks series to come to auction this century, and one of only eight examples remaining in private hands. The other 17 examples reside in distinguished museum collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and six in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Meules is further distinguished by its illustrious provenance, having been acquired by wealthy Chicago socialites and fervent collectors of Impressionist works, Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, directly from Monet’s dealer in the 1890s. Mrs. Potter Palmer is thought to have owned as many as 90 works by Monet throughout her life, of which eight were from the Haystacks series, often selling them soon after they were acquired. However, this canvas remained with her until the time of her death in 1918, and descended through the Palmer family until it was purchased at auction in 1986 by the present owners for $2.53 million. The work had remained in the same private collection ever since.
Monet began working on the group of paintings that are almost universally known as Haystacks as early as 1884, depicting stacks that were subsumed into a wider environment. However, the major series of majestic canvases depicting grainstacks, with a focus on the evanescent effects of light, were completed between 1889 and 1891. The stacks in the present composition are distinguished from other depictions in the series by the diagonal swaths of light between the forms. Referred to as his “series” pictures, Monet’s renderings of Haystacks, as well as the Rouen Cathedral and water lilies in Giverny, are the most celebrated images of the artist’s oeuvre.
Claude Monet, Meules. Oil on canvas. Executed in 1890, signed and dated by the artist in 1891. Estimate in excess of $55 million. Sold for $110.7 million, new world auction record for any work by Claude Monet and the first work of Impressionist art to cross the $100 million threshold at auction. Courtesy Sotheby's.