Jean-Baptiste Oudry's The Wolf and the Lamb has sold with strong results as part of Christie's Old Master Paintings Part II, which was held in New York on January 31.
The piece was not expected to make an appearance in the auction's top results, yet it beat its $80,000 high estimate by 398.1% to achieve $398,500 - the highest price of the sale. Oudry (1686-1755) was the most celebrated illustrator of the Fables of La Fontaine, with this piece illustrating Fable X.
Jean de La Fontaine's (1621-1695) fables were originally published in several volumes between 1668 and 1694. Adapted from classical fables, such as those of Aesop, they are largely the same in content but are noted for the humour and freshness that Fontaine injected into each one.
The Wolf and the Lamb sees a lamb being accused by an angry wolf of trespassing, before it is dragged into the woods and eaten. Despite the lamb smartly refuting the wolf's accusations, La Fontaine observes, "Might is right. The verdict goes to the strong."
There are several known versions of Oudry's composition, most notably the over-door piece commissioned in 1747 for the Grand Cabinet du Daupin at Versailles and a canvas that is currently held in the Museums of Metz.
Another Oudry piece, entitled Dogs Playing with Birds in a Park, saw a 118.5% increase on the $100,000 estimate, selling for $218,500.
Bringing the second highest bids was Abraham Bloemaert's (1566-1651) Two Boys Singing, which just pushed past its $250,000 high estimate to achieve $254,500 - a 1.7% increase. The piece was recently rediscovered and attributed to Bloemaert in 2008.
Paul Fraser Collectibles has all the top results from Old Masters Week in our Art & Photography news section, with more to follow.