It’s the kind of story that dreams are made of.
Five years ago we reported on a magnificent pre-Raphaelite painting by John William Waterhouse that was discovered in a rundown farmhouse in Ontario and offered at Christie’s in London in November, 2002. Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May (illustrated right) carried a pre-sale estimate of $3.5/4.9 million. Acquired in 1973 as part of the furniture, fixtures and fittings when the owners purchased the farmhouse, and “discovered” by a Toronto art dealer in 2001 when it was brought in for an appraisal, the dream version of the story would have been a hammer price of $5 million plus. But the dream turned sour, unfortunately, when the painting failed to sell, despite bidding interest to $2.9 million.
Personally, I think a $2.9 million return on a zero investment is not bad and certainly would end my dream quite nicely, thank you. But for the owners of the painting it was not enough. Which brings us to the latest turn of events. The painting is about to go on the block once more, this time at Sotheby’s New York on April 18th. Pre-sale estimate this time is $2.1/3 million. The art market is certainly stronger now than it was five years ago, and can probably accommodate such a high-profile painting despite it already having been offered before. So, perhaps the dream will end happily after all.
Let’s just hope the owners don’t rue their earlier decision to pass on the $2.9 million and end up uttering that famous plaintive cry of ‘Rosebud’ that we all know so well.