As a member of the Met’s board, Mark Fisch was behind some of the museum’s biggest acquisitions. As a regular citizen, the retired real estate developer is now behind one of the most valuable properties the Old Master has ever held for sale.
When Sotheby’s opens its Masters Week on January 26, 2023, all eyes will be on Peter Paul Rubens’s. Salome was presented with the Severed Head of Saint John the BaptistThe original macabre work was rediscovered in 1998. Experts estimate that it will sell for 35 million dollars, five times the price that was paid at the New York Sotheby’s market in 1998, and then the history of the Rubens auction company.
The 1609 work is one of 10 paintings from the Fisch Davidson Collection, which arrived at Sotheby’s courtesy of a long-running divorce settlement between Fisch and Rachel Davidson, a former New Jersey judge. Featuring 17th- and 18th-century masterpieces by Orazio Gentileschi, Valentin de Boulogne, and Bernardo Cavallino, the auction house calls the collection “one of the most important pieces of Baroque art ever to hit the market.”
Far from being a commercial transaction, separation is known for its potential to have a long-term impact on divorce cases in New York State. Lawyers for wealthy clients seeking divorces have long raced to be the first to book, often in smaller jurisdictions where they believe judges will be more conservative and biased toward wealthy men, a practice known as “bargaining.” Fisch’s attempt in Suffolk County, home to the couple’s $4 million vacation home in Southampton, however, was rejected by an appeals court, forcing him to fight the divorce case in Manhattan.
Before the sale in January, the paintings, which total $177 million, were exhibited at Sotheby’s New York, and will later be shown at its locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and London. Apart from Rubens, highlights include Holy Penitent Mary Magdalene, a late Renaissance work by Orazio Gentileschi ($4 million to $6 million), and a recently discovered painting by the great French Caravaggio painter, Georges de la Tour, Saint James the Great ($3.5 million to $5 million). Also of interest is Valentin de Boulogne’s Christ was crowned with thorns ($4 million to $6 million), depicting a gentle Jesus being tortured, the early Baroque work sold for $5.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2016.
The sale of the Fisch Davidson Collection follows on the heels of other high-profile divorce auctions, such as the Macklowe Collection which fetched $922 million, the most valuable collection ever sold at auction, and Sotheby’s. The January sale may lack the power of works by Warhol, Rothko, and Richter all going on the market at the same time, but the events taking place in 2023 will not be painful.
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