La Captive by Théodore Ralli was the top selling lot at Bonhams Greek Sale in Paris on Wednesday 19 May. It sold for €375,313 having been estimated at €300,000-500,000.
This was the first Bonhams Greek sale to be held in Paris and realised €2,874,188 with 75% sold by lot and 84% sold by value. The auction represented one part of the company’s expansion in France with a suite of sales planned for 2021 including a further Greek Art sale on Wednesday 24 November.
Ralli spent most of his working life in France and La Captive is regarded as among his very finest works. It depicts a young Greek girl in traditional peasant costume held prisoner by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire in a desecrated church. The unsentimental nobility of the young woman’s gaze invites the viewer to share her plight and, by extension, that of the Greek people. The work has especial resonance in 2021 which sees the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, the catalyst for a decade of revolt against the Ottoman Empire which led to Independence for Greece in 1830.
Bonhams Greek Art specialist Anastasia Orfanidou said: “We are very pleased that our inaugural Greek sale in Paris proved to be so successful and it is appropriate that the best-selling picture should be a work by Théodore Ralli who spent so many successful years in the city. La Captive is an undoubted masterpiece and like many other paintings in the sale was inspired by the Greek Revolution, the bicentenary of which we mark this year. It is a remarkable picture, and I am not surprised that it sold so well.”
Other highlights included:
- Silhouette/ La bas au loin et près de la mer by Yiannis Moralis (1916-2009). Painted in 2006, just three years before the artist’s death, it sold for €250,313 (estimate: €200,000-300,000).
- Sur la guerre d’ Indépendance / Paysage orphique by Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek 1907-1985). This 1939 painting was exhibited at the 1954 Venice Biennale, where, for the first time, Greece was represented by one artist alone. Engonopoulos showed alongside such towering figures of modern art as Arp, Ernst, Miro, Klee, Bacon and Magritte. The work is a leading example from the artist’s much sought after, highly desirable, pre-war period. Sold for €175,313 (estimate: €140,000-180,000).
- Le héros Odysseas Androutsos by Theofilos Hadjimichael. Theofilos had a lifelong fascination with the 1821 Greek War of Independence, and this work pays homage to one of the giants of the uprising, Odysseus Androutsos. A brave and fierce klepht (brigand), he achieved legendary status when in May 1821, along with a band of 100 men, held back for days a force of more than 3,000 Turks led by Omer Vrionis at the pass of Gravia, preventing their descent to the Peloponnese. Sold for €106,563 (estimate: €30,000-50,000).