Record-Breaking Sale for Danish Artist's Painting

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A record was set on Monday for the highest price ever reached by a Danish work of art at auction.

Sotheby's Auction House reports that Vilhelm Hammershoi's "Ida Reading a Letter" sold for 1.7 million pounds (15.7 million Danish Krone, $2.6 million).

The painting was hotly pursued by three bidders on the telephones, before finally selling to an international private collector, hugely surpassing the pre-sale estimate of 500,000-700,000 pounds (4.57-6.4 million Danish Krone, 800,000-1,120,000 USD).

The price achieved was almost three times above the previous record.

"Ida Reading a Letter" was one of five paintings by the artist on sale in London.

[Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sotheby's Denmark Office]:
"A fantastic day for Denmark and for the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi. We made a world record today for the artist at auction. It made, 'Ida Reading a Letter,' it made 1.7 million pounds, and the total of the five Hammershoi works - they made 4.3 million pounds so we're very very happy about the result."

"Ida Reading a Letter," painted in 1899, was among the first works painted by Hammershoi.

In his subtle use of light, muted tones and subject, Hammershoi perhaps owes his greatest debt to the Dutch seventeenth-century master Johannes Vermeer, and he would have seen Vermeer's works first-hand on a trip to Holland in 1887.

The composition is remarkably similar to Vermeer's "Woman Reading a Letter" to the extent that it seems impossible Hammershøi did not have this work in mind.

[Nina Wedell-Wedellsborg, Head of Sotheby's Denmark Office]:
"He's now finally this amazing minimalistic, amazing light that he's using in his works. You could draw a parallel to Vermeer, you can draw a parallel to Whistler. He has finally moved up in the same class and group as painters at the same time when he worked.