A Diego Velázquez portrait of Spanish Queen Isabel de Borbón, which was expected to break the artist’s previous records, was quietly withdrawn from auction by Sotheby’s in New York.
The court painting, which has been owned by a private family trust in the US since 1978, was pulled due to “ongoing discussions” on behalf of the sellers. The painting did not appear in the auction house’s digital sales catalogue released on December 21.
There is speculation that a US museum may have put in an offer, however, Sotheby’s declined to comment, the Art Newspaper reported Friday. The 1620s painting was guaranteed by the auction house at $35 million in its upcoming Old Master sale on February 1.
The Isabel de Borbon portrait could be related to a famed Velázquez painting of her husband Philip IV held by the Prado in Madrid. It was taken from the Spanish royal collection in Madrid during Napoleon’s 1808 invasion and later appeared in a French noble collection in 1838. It eventually came into the hands of British banker and book collector Henry Huth. His relatives held it until 1950, when the piece was last at auction.
High-quality works by Velázquez are typically found in royal or museum collections and are rarely sold in public auctions. The price tag and good condition reflect this singularity. If sold, the work would more than double the 17th-century Spanish painter’s current $16.9 million auction record.
The consignors, the auction house said in a statement, “have reluctantly decided on a temporary pause in the sale process, due to ongoing discussions on their side”. Despite this, however, and “given the excitement with which the Velázquez has been received thus far”, Sotheby’s said both sides “look forward to offering this exceptional painting for sale in the near future”.