Portrait of a Lady by Peter Paul Rubens was sold for PLN 14.4 million at the auction “Old Masters, 19th Century, Modernism, the Interwar Period” on 17 March 2022 at DESA Unicum in Warsaw. It was the most expensive work of art ever sold on the Polish market and the first work by Rubens auctioned in Poland.
The painting, dated c. 1626, was in private hands since the 1960s and not exhibited to the public. The work is notable for a provenance rarely encountered in the global art market. One of the first owners of the canvas was Sir Peter Lely, who was the most distinguished painter of his day in Britain, a friend of Rubens, and an art collector. Then for two centuries the painting was found at Stowe House, in the collection of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos. Sold at Christie’s in London in 1848, it was later held by well-known art dealers and collectors Robert Roe, Wynne Ellis and Jules Porgès, among others. In the mid-20th century Portrait of a Lady was part of the Paris collection of the Egyptian Prince Mohammed Ali Ibrahim and Princess Hanzade, where it remained until 2011. The last time it was viewed on exhibition was in Brussels in 1965.
Portraits by Rubens rarely appear at auction in Europe, and in Poland no artwork with such great historical, artistic and investment value had ever before been auctioned. Over 3,000 people visited the pre-auction showing.