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CURRENT COLUMN

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of Dubious Due Diligence

The Case of the Olympic Posters
The Case of the Olympic Posters

The Case of the Solitary Surrealist
The Case of the Solitary Surrealist

The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt
The Case of the Recalcitrant Rembrandt

The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity
The Case of the Ambiguity of Authenticity

The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys
The Case of Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Boys

The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard
The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910
The Case of the M.S. Nov 1910

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of the Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2
The Case of Cruise Ship Art: Part 2

The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light
The Case of Mary Most Holy Mother of Light

The Case of Leni and the Nuba
The Case of Leni and the Nuba

The Case of the Seductive Souvenir
The Case of the Seductive Souvenir

The Case of the Irish Surrealist
The Case of the Irish Surrealist

The Case of the Developing Dalí
The Case of the Developing Dalí

The Case of Nano-D Technology
The Case of Nano-D Technology

The Case of Dabatable Donations
The Case of Debatable Donations

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of the Long-tailed Monkey

Edgar Heap of Birds
The Case of Edgar Heap of Birds

Silent Song
The Case of the Silent Song

Aficionado
The Case of Alex and the Art Aficionado

Portrait
The Case of the Privacy of the Publicity Photo

Potter
The Case of the Potter's Portraits

The Case of the Coy Cornelius Krieghoff

The Case of the Political Portraitist

The Case of the Reconsidered Revolution

The Case of the Anabiotic Abbey

The Case of the Phoney Picasso

The Case of Setsuko Piroche

The Case of being on the Forest Edge with Vern Simpson

The Case of Being at the End of the Storm with Loren Adams

The Case of Being: Under the Table with Thomas

The Case of Wyland's Whales on Walls

The Case of A.Y. Jackson's Smart River (Alaska)

The Case of Red Fish with Blue Breasts

The Case of Looe Poole

The Case of Camaldoli

The Case of MS

The Case of the Misattributed Emily Carrs

The Case of the Doubtful Dürer

The Case of the Purloined Picasso

The Case of the Defrocked Duchess of Devonshire

The Case of the First Wife

The Case of the Dodford Priory

The Case of the Unknown Actor

Art Services & Materials


Confessions Back

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, Château-Gaillard, Les Andelys, France

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, Château-Gaillard, Les Andelys, France (c. 1910), oil on panel, sold at Sotheby’s

Practical Art History
(or Confessions of a Fine Art Appraiser)

by Jim Finlay
Finlay Fine Art
jim_finlay@telus.net

Chapter 49. The Case of Clarence’s Château-Gaillard

Both of the paintings shown here, by Canadian artist Clarence Gagnon (1881–1942), were sold at auction in November 2008 through Sotheby’s and Heffel, respectively. Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, France had a presale estimate of $12,000 to $15,000 and sold for $13,000. Misty Morning, Château-Gaillard had a presale estimate of $20,000 to $25,000 and sold for $27,500. Both paintings are of similar size and subject matter, and both were painted by Gagnon circa 1910.

Many factors might explain why one painting sold for twice as much as the other. However, I would suggest that one of the main reasons was the manner in which each painting was presented in its respective auction catalogue.

The design strategies adopted for the presentation of these two pieces in their catalogues differed in at least three ways. First was the size of the image on the page (and, notably, whether the image was on its own dedicated page) and the amount of art historical text associated with the image. Second was the numbering and placement of the lot in which the piece appeared in relation to other lots offered for auction. And third was the proximity of that lot to the conclusion of the auction.

Auction houses also situate artworks in catalogues in what is best described as a “cresting wave” model. Works expected to sell at higher prices appear on the crest, preceded and followed by lesser works expected to sell for lower prices. Thus, periods of cresting works generate intense competitive excitement intended to encourage aggressive bidding. These are flanked by “valley” periods in which lesser works are expected to sell for lower prices.

Finally, by placing a designated cresting-wave artwork near the close of the auction catalogue, the auction house signals the conclusion of the proceedings, and so creates a sense of urgency meant to encourage bidders to purchase works before they are no longer available.

Heffel’s choice to place Misty Morning, Château-Gaillard on a single page in the catalogue along with extensive text and flanked by pages of lesser valued pieces defined a cresting point. (Misty Morning preceded another cresting point, that for a large A.Y. Jackson, lot 218, which sold for $37,500. The lots following were less expensive, and then the auction ended with another lesser Jackson, to give those bidders who were denied ownership of lot 218 another chance at a Jackson.)

Sotheby’s used similar placement strategies designed to generate interest and to pace the auction audience. Interestingly, by way of contrast, Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, France was illustrated with another work and limited text on a single page in the Sotheby’s catalogue. Several lots preceding were passed and several lots, including some contemporary works, following were withdrawn and/or passed, essentially minimizing excitement levels, except that lot 190, David Milne’s cresting work Woman with Suitcase, sold for $475,000, within the range of its presale estimate.

It was this difference in strategies of catalogue placement which was a major contributing factor in Heffel selling one of two essentially companion pieces for over double the price realized at Sotheby’s.

Next: The Case of Margaret Keane’s (?) Big Eyed Boy

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, Misty Morning, Château-Gaillard

Clarence Alphonse Gagnon, Misty Morning, Château-Gaillard (c. 1910), oil on panel, sold at Heffel

 Sun, Nov 8, 2015