Auction Results: Photography of the Civil War: Property from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (online), October 7, 2021 @Christie’s

The results from the recent Civil War photographs sale at Christie’s were wide ranging, from lots that passed and sold under their estimate ranges to those that doubled or tripled their estimates. All of the lots on offer were being deaccessioned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and so the scholarship and provenance behind them was strong. The top lot in the sale was attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan and found a buyer at more than twice its high estimate, and the sale was dominated by prints from just a handful of photographers: O’Sullivan, Alexander Gardner, Mathew Brady, Andrew Russell, George Barnard, and a few others. With an overall Buy-In rate over 36% and more than 40% of the lots that sold doing so below their estimate ranges, there was softness in the demand, but a number of positive surprises worked to offset that downward push, bringing the Total Sale Proceeds in at roughly $250K, just above the  low end of the aggregate pre-sale estimate range.

The summary statistics are below (all results include the buyer’s premium):

Summary Statistics
Total Lots 168
Aggregate Pre Sale Low Estimate $215000
Aggregate Pre Sale High Estimate $372500
Total Lots Sold 107
Total Lots Bought In 61
Buy In % 36.31%
Total Sale Proceeds $257625

Since all the lots on offer in this sale fell in the lowest price tier, we will forego our usual statistical analysis of results by price tier.

The top lot by High estimate was lot 16, attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan, The “Mine”, Petersburg, Virginia, 1864, estimated at $4000-6000; it was also the top outcome of the sale at $15000 (image above, via Christie’s.)

Only 57.94% of the lots that sold had proceeds in or above the estimate range, but there were a total of 19 positive surprises in the sale (defined as having proceeds of at least double the high estimate.) The 10 surprises with outcomes above $5000 are listed below (images above, via Christie’s):

Lot 2, possibly by George Barnard, [View of a Soldier Watering his Horse] Bull Run, Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia, c. 1861-1862, estimated at $1000-2000, sold at $7500

Lot 5, Egbert Guy Fowx, Pontoon Bridge on James River, Deep Bottom, Virginia, 1864-1865, estimated at $1000-2000, sold at $5250

Lot 8, possibly by Timothy O’Sullivan, Distant View of Landing, Belle Plain, Virginia, 1864, estimated at $1000-2000, sold at $7500

Lot 16, attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan, The “Mine”, Petersburg, Virginia, 1864, estimated at $4000-6000, sold at $15000

Lot 20, formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady, Convalescent Camp near Alexandria, Virginia, 1861-1865, estimated at $2000-3000, sold at $10625

Lot 24, formerly attributed to Mathew B. Brady, Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania [Scene of General Reynold’s Death, The Eastern Edge of McPherson’s Woods, view looking towards Seminary Ridge], July 1863, estimated at $2000-3000, sold at $10000

Lot 45, attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan, Orange and Alexandria Railroad Bridge Across, Bull Run, Virginia, 1862, estimated at $1500-2500, sold at $6875

Lot 54, attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan, Barges and Steamers, White House Landing, Pamunkey River, Virginia, 1861-1865, estimated at $1500-2500, sold at $5625

Lot 138, Alexander Gardner, Northeast Suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, estimated at $2000-3000, sold at $6000

Lot 139, Alexander Gardner, Ruins of the Arsenal, Richmond, Virginia, after Evacuations, 1865, estimated at $2000-3000, sold at $6250

The complete lot by lot results can be found here.

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Read more about: Alexander Gardner, George Barnard, Mathew Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan, Christie's

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