The London-based auction house Christie’s reported via a Twitter feed that the Saint Praxedis (101.6 x 82.6 cm.) was sold on Tuesday, July 8 for $10,687,160 (£6,242,500). This figure barely higher that than the auction house’s lowest estimate of $10,284,000 but considerably lower than the upper estimate of $13,712,000. The painting was sold after a few bids to an Asiatic client. The painting was sold after a few bids to an Asiatic client.
At the moment, the low price paid for the Saint Praxedis suggests that the results of the scientific analysis were less than convincing and that it was bought in hopes that future critical or scientific investigations will strengthened its attribution.
In 2004, Sotheby’s sold the miniscule Woman Seated at the Virginals for $42 million (£16.2 million) a price five times greater than the auction house’s initial estimate. Previous to the two sales, the authorship of both works had been for debated for decades. On occasion of the sales the picture were proposed as authentic Vermeer’s largely the basis of scientific analysis spearheaded, in both cases, by the respective auction houses.
Before the painting was sold, Christie’s reported that after having examined the picture the conservator Libby Sheldon said that although no firm conclusion about the exact date of the picture’s Vermeer signature could be reached, she believed that it is nonethless “old.” In 1998 , Jørgen Wadum, then the chief curator of the Mauritshuis, stated that the signature had been added after the painting had been completed. Tests carried out by the Rijksmuseum show that the lead component of the lead white pigment extracted from the picture derives from a northern European source making it improbable that the picture was painted in southern Europe, as some critics had speculated. In addition, Christie’s claims that the lead white used to paint the Saint Praxedis is from the same “batch” used to painted the Diana and her Companions, a secure work by Vermeer.
However, since the results of these tests have not been published, for the moment it is not clear what meant by the term “batch.” Many pigments used by artists, including white lead, were already being produced on a large scale with the products being delivered to the retail dealers. There exists no evidence that that might indicate if Vermeer prepared his own paints or bought them through one or other commercial venues.