His dazzling, virtuosic rendering of fruit skins and birds' plumage made the master's Still Life a distinct rival to an extremely rare series of Inca emperor portraits.
Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743), Nature morte au trophée de gibier, fruits et perroquet sur fond de niche (Still Life with game trophy, fruit and parrot against a niche), 1716, oil on canvas, 102.5 x 83 cm.
€2,029,500 was the dizzying height achieved by Still Life with game trophy, fruit and parrot against a niche painted by Alexandre-François Desportes in 1716. And it took less than five minutes, during which "five big business and private bidders, mainly French, fought it out fiercely," says auctioneer Antoine Briscadieu, adding that the painting can be "considered "the artist's masterpiece." In garnering ten times its high estimate, it has become the highest-priced work by Desportes ever sold (source: Artnet), dethroning a pair of still lifes that fetched €695,000 with Sotheby's New York on 12 January 1995. The painting, which had disappeared from view since 1888, had a prestigious and indeed princely provenance as it came from the collections or even the apartments of the Regent, Philippe d'Orléans, at the Palais Royal – unless it belonged to his daughter, Marie-Louise Élisabeth, at the Château de La Muette, as suggested by various details, including the golden dolphin embellishing the wall fountain. After this, another lot roundly smashed its estimate of €4,000/6,000: a series of eleven portraits of Inca emperors (each measuring 55.5 x 41, unframed; one is reproduced on the right-hand page), produced in South America in the 19th century, which soared up to €1,291,500. Unsurprisingly, several American buyers crossed swords for them…