A Rubens Masterpiece Could Fetch $35 Million at the Auction of Divorcing Couple Mark Fisch and Rachel Davidson’s $177 Million Baroque Art Collection

As a Met board member, Mark Fisch was behind some of the museum’s acquisitions. As a private citizen, the retired architect is behind one of the finest Old Master works ever to come up for sale.

When Sotheby’s opens its Masters Week on January 26, 2023, all eyes will be on Peter Paul Rubens’s. Salome Was Given the Severed Head of John the BaptistThe original macabre work was rediscovered in 1998. Experts estimate that it could sell for up to 35 million dollars, five times the price paid at the New York Sotheby’s auction in 1998, the next record for a Rubens work at auction.

The 1609 work is one of ten paintings from the Fisch Davidson Collection, arriving at Sotheby’s courtesy of the long-running divorce between Fisch and Rachel Davidson, a former New Jersey judge. Featuring 17th- and 18th-century art by Orazio Gentileschi, Valentin de Boulogne, and Bernardo Cavallino, the auction house is labeling the collection “one of the most important collections of Baroque art ever to appear on the market.”

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Far from the auction block, the division is known for its potential to have long-term effects on divorce in New York State. Lawyers for wealthy clients seeking divorce have raced to be the first to file, often in small jurisdictions where they think judges will be too conservative and biased toward wealthy men, a practice known as “forum shopping.” Fisch’s attempt to file in Suffolk County, where the couple’s $400,000 Southampton vacation home is located, however, was rejected by a federal judge, forcing him to fight the divorce case in Manhattan.

Ahead of the January auction, paintings from the collection, which are valued at $177 million in total, are now on display at Sotheby’s New York, and will be on view at its locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and London. Besides Rubens, the highlights include Saint Mary Magdalene, a late Renaissance work by Orazio Gentileschi ($4 million to $6 million), and a recently acquired painting by the leading artist of the French Caravaggio movement, Georges de la Tour, Saint James the Great ($3.5 million to $5 million). Also of interest is Valentin de Boulogne’s Christ Was Crowned With Thorns ($4 million to $6 million), depicting a gentle-faced Jesus being tortured, the early Baroque work sold for $5.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2016.

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The Fisch Davidson Collection auction follows on from famous sales that have inspired divorce, such as the Macklowe Collection which fetched $922,000, the most valuable collection ever sold at auction, also Sotheby’s. The January sale may lack the power of works with Warhol, Rothko, and Richter all going to the market at the same time, but the situation surrounding the 2023 event is not less.

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