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 the museum’s biggest acquisitions. As a private citizen, the retired real estate developer is now after the highest price for an Old Master work to come to auction.

When Suthu opens its Masters Week on 26 January 2023, all eyes will be on Peter Paul Rubens. Salome Presented with the Severed Head of Saint John the Baptistthe macabre early work was rediscovered in 1998. Experts estimate it could sell for up to $35 million, more than five times the price at a New York Sotheby’s auction in 1998, then the record for a Rubens work at auction.

The 1609 work is one of 10 paintings from the Fisch Davidson Collection, which arrived at Sotheby’s as a result of the protracted divorce between Fisch and Rachel Davidson, a former New Jersey judge. Featuring 17th- and 18th-century works of art by Orazio Gentileschi, Valentin de Boulogne, and Bernardo Cavallino, the auction house bills the collection as “the most important collection of Baroque art ever to appear on the market.”

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Far from the auction block, separation is notable for its ability to have a long-term impact on divorce proceedings in New York State. Lawyers for wealthy clients seeking divorce have long raced to be the first to file, often in smaller jurisdictions where they feel judges will be more biased and biased toward wealthy men, a practice known as “forum shopping.” Fisch’s attempt to file in Suffolk County, where the couple’s $4 million Southampton vacation home is located, however, was rejected by the appeals court, thus forcing him to fight the divorce case in Manhattan.

Before the January auction, paintings from the collection, valued at 177 million dollars in total, were exhibited at Sotheby’s New York, and will later be shown at its locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. Besides Rubens, highlights include Repentant Mary Magdalene, A late Renaissance work by Orazio Gentileschi ($4 million to $6 million), and a recently discovered 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 interesting is Valentin de Boulogne’s Christ Was Crowned With Thorns (Est. $4 million to $6 million), depicting a placid Jesus being tortured, the early Baroque work was sold for $5.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2016.

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The auction of the Fisch Davidson Collection follows other sales that promote divorce, such as the Macklowe Collection which fetched $922 million, the most valuable collection ever sold at auction, also by Sotheby’s. The January sale may lack the power of works by Warhol, Rothko, and Richter all going on the market at the same time, but the conditions surrounding the 2023 event are not bad.

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