THE STORY BEHIND THE ‘SULTAN’


who lured bidders from all over the world to Antwerp...


In the aftermath of the modern art auction at the end of April, we are entrusted with an old master portrait for auction. Just before the deadline to print the auction catalog of the classic auction of May 28. The panel has a stamp on the back and we immediately realize that that stamp is the key to our story. Crowned HW is put as the first description. After quick investigation we cannot find that stamp in literature and other sources. The auction catalog needed to be printed.

Marit researches and finds a painting in the Mauritshuis with the same stamp, the collection stamp of Stadtholder William III, Willem Hendrik van Oranje (1650-1702), who later became king of England, Ireland and Scotland after his marriage to Mary Stuart II. The Mauritshuis confirms and suggests that the work be withdrawn from auction for more research.

Team Campo comes together and we decide we want to play the game…. It is not the job of an auction house to conduct scientific research. Our attribution would not add value and leave much more room for discussion. The potential bidders for this lot have much more expertise and can judge and speculate for themselves. The additional information is published online and we notice that interest is growing.

 

The person portrayed helps us gain attention in India and among Indians worldwide. It is the Indian Mughal Emperor Jahangir, who ruled from 1605 to 1627. Jahangir (“Conqueror of the World”) was the eldest son and successor of Akbar the Great, the most important emperor and actual founder of the Mughal dynasty, and the father of Shah Jahan, the builder of the world famous Taj Mahal.

The portrait was most likely part of a series for the decoration of Honselaarsdijk Palace in the Netherlands, which was demolished in 1814.

The exhibition looks fantastic. We are able to open earlier than expected and start dreaming. I stand in front of the painting, almost ecstatic, together with one of the interested old master experts. We discuss how important it is that bidders do not form a block to keep the price low. We continue to focus on reaching the most diverse bidding audience as possible. Many experts still asked us to come by to examine the portrait right before the auction. Opinions remain divided.

We had decided not to make predictions or to mention any amounts for the auction, but secretly we had an amount in mind. Guy Campo is asked for an interview and the press insists the press is pushing for a prediction. He is cautious.  The final result turns out to be historic. Three million! The best result ever in the 127-year history of the house of Campo. The reactions we receive afterwards from our customers are heartwarming.

This year I am celebrating my 20 years of service at Campo & Campo and I couldn’t have imagined a better gift.

Guy, Marit, Thomas, Tom: Glad I’m on your team!

Carla Janssens

Campo & Campo

carla@campocampo.be