Last night the Getty Museum paid $65,125,000 for Manet’s Le Printemps (Spring) at Christie’s New York. Incredibly, it’s the second Manet portrait the Getty has bought this year—the other is a pastel—and the third in the past three years.
Le Printemps was conceived as one of four portraits of fashionable women representing the seasons. Manet completed only two, the other being Autumn in the Fine Arts Museum of Nancy, France (below).
The $65 million price is the most the Getty has ever paid at auction. It’s rumored that the museum paid $70 million ($90 million in today’s dollars) for Titian’s Portrait of Alfonso d’Avalos in a private sale. The $54 million auction price for van Gogh’s Irises (paid by Alan Bond, who owned it before the Getty) would be about $110 million in today’s money. That figure however deserves an asterisk for some very creative financing.
Despite its buying power, the Getty has mostly avoided the cliché people’s choice: colorful Impressionist paintings of young women in landscapes. Of the museum’s four paintings by Claude Monet, three are near-monochrome views of gray or wintry weather. You might not know that Monet ever painted a human figure or a green leaf. The “prettier” sort of Impressionist paintings often command stupendous prices from private collectors. I suspect that, either by design or happenstance, the Getty found more value in other parts of the 19th-century market.
But Le Printemps is about as feel-good appealing as an Impressionist painting gets. It will be one of the museum’s signature paintings and ought to take some of the selfie-heat off Irises.