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LACMA's deaccessioned Old Masters: one down, one to go

March 6, 2009 | 11:15 am

Portait of a Bearded Young Man (1518) by Lucas Cranach the Elder For sale (still): one Old Master painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, dated 1518, which found no takers five weeks ago when it went on the block in New York. Details available from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which, according to a spokeswoman, has since put it on consignment for a private sale.

"The Portrait of a Bearded Young Man" (left) failed to move, despite catalog notes from Sotheby's Jan. 29 auction extolling how Cranach "has lavished his full attention on this striking young sitter, with his penetrating blue eyes ... and carefully delineates the delicate hairs in his fair, curly beard." The estimated auction price had been $600,000 to $800,000.

LACMA did better with its other big discard: Sir Joshua Saint Cecilia (1775) by Sir Joshua Reynolds Reynolds' 1775 painting, "Saint Cecilia" (right), which fetched $650,000 -- somewhat beneath the estimate of $700,000 to $900,000. The buyer paid an additional required premium of $132,500.

The museum also recently picked up some walking-around money, $6,835, by pruning its closet: Last month, scores of dresses, shoes and decorative pieces from LACMA's costumes and textiles collection were auctioned by Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles. According to results posted on Bonhams' website, 34 of 44 LACMA lots were sold, with an antique, embroidered-silk Turkish wall hanging (below) commanding the most money -- $600.

Turkish antique embroidered silk wall hanging  LACMA plans to use the proceeds to buy other art, in keeping with voluntary codes of ethics in the museum world that say it's beyond the pale to deaccession (museum-ese for "sell") works from a collection, except to amass a kitty to buy other works. Many in the art world have been outraged by recent deacessioning decisions in New York and Waltham, Mass. -- the former leading to the sale of two important paintings, the other a decision by Brandeis University's trustees to liquidate the entire collection of its Rose Art Museum to solve a university-wide budget deficit. The university's president has since backpedaled furiously, saying only certain works may be sold.

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: "Portrait of a Bearded Young Man" (1518) by Lucas Cranach the Elder and "Saint Cecilia" (1775), Sir Joshua Reynolds. Credit: Museum Associates/LACMA

Photo: Antique Turkish embroidered-silk wall hanging. Credit: Bonhams & Butterfields