Buy One, Get One: This Renoir Still Life Comes With the Vase in the Painting

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fleurs dans un vase (c. 1878)

Artnet_ It’s not usually the case that you get a sweetener when you buy an item at auction, even when you pay tens of millions of dollars, but Sotheby’s London has a special offer in its March 6 Modern and contemporary evening sale. Among the multimillion-dollar works by auction standbys like Picasso, Monet, and Bacon, there is a still life of flowers in a vase by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. If you buy it, the house will throw in the vase that appears in the painting itself.

Bearing a high estimate of £3 million ($3.8 million),Fleurs dans un vase(c. 1878) measures about 22 inches high and has been with the current owner only since 2019, though the vase has been in the family ever since the painting was created, and comes from his great-grandson, Emmanuel Renoir.

Galerie Durand-Ruel, the Paris establishment that capably promoted the Impressionist painters to wealthy American buyers, bought the painting from the artist in 1890. It has appeared once previously at auction, at Paris’s Drouot Montaigne, in November 1997, when it fetched just over $800,000.

Renoir’s focus on majolica actually has a personal echo for the artist himself, since he started his career as a painter on porcelain and was born in Limoges, a center for porcelain production in France. According to the house, the vase appears to have been made in about 1700 in the Sicilian city of Caltagirone, a center for the production of majolica.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Au moulin de la Galette (1876)

Still life painting would serve as not only a vehicle for formal experimentation for Renoir but also a way to chill out. “Painting flowers is a form of mental relaxation,” the artist said. “I do not need the concentration that I need when I am faced with a model. When I am painting flowers, I can experiment boldly with tones and values without worrying about destroying the whole painting. I would not dare to do that with a figure.”

The artist used the same vase in several still life paintings as well as in two of the five paintings he did of two young girls at the piano in 1892, a group of works created for a commission from the Musée du Luxembourg.

Renoir’s auction record stands at $78.1 million, for the canvasAu Moulin de la Galette(1876) at Sotheby’s New York in 1990, after bidding began at $25 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. (Corrected for inflation, that would be some $184.3 million today.) The painting went to Ryoei Saito, the honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Company, Japan. The sale came just two days too late to establish a world auction record, since Vincent van Gogh’sPortrait of Dr. Gachethad sold, also to Saito, at Christie’s for $82.5 million.