Pierre-Auguste Renoir's magnificent Venus victorieuse, a stunning example of his sculptural work, has sold as top lot in Heritage Auctions' sale of the artist's artwork and personal items, which was held in New York on September 19.
The original plaster sculpture, created in collaboration with noted French sculptor Richard Guino, sold for $545,000. A wonderful standing nude, it is said to be the culmination of Renoir's sculptures, which personifies his "idea of female quintessence", according to Heritage.
The sale, which featured letters, personal property and assorted memorabilia, had faced protests from Renoir's great-grandson, Jacques Renoir. However, Heritage Auctions stands by its decision to proceed, as the collection was previously legally sold by the artist's grandson.
Also starring in the sale was Les Becasses (The Woodcocks), an oil on canvas work that was completed just hours before Renoir's death in 1919. It made $125,000.
Apparently, Renoir's doctor, Dr Duthil, had killed two woodcocks, and told the artist of his exploits. With painting constantly Renoir's priority, he is quoted as saying, "Give me my pallet ... These two woodcocks ... Turn left the woodcock ... Return me back my pallet ... I cannot paint this beak ... Hurry up, my colors ... Change the place of these woodcocks."
Renoir faced crippling arthritis in his hands in later life, causing him to have a paintbrush strapped to his wrist so he could continue to work.
Renoir's art scored the highest bids in the sale, though a signed letter from Claude Monet to Renoir appeared in the top results, selling for $20,000. It reads:
"My dear Renoir, Thank you for your note. I see your long-standing affection in it. My poor Jean - it's a merciful release. All the same it is a terrible blow to me and my poor wife. My affection to your wife and those around you. Your old friend, Claude Monet."
For far less than the price paid for that single letter at Heritage Auctions, you can own a signed letter from Pierre-Auguste Renoir to his benefactor Madame Charpentier and another from Claude Monet on "Giverny par Vernon. Eure" stationary from Paul Fraser Collectibles.