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Iconic Painting of Greek Artist Yiannis Tsarouchis Sets Record at Auction

The painting La garde oubliée set record for the works of Yiannis Tsarouchis. Credit: Bonhams

An iconic painting by Greek artist Yiannis Tsarouchis set a new world record for a work by the artist at auction when it sold for €441,375 ($460,000) at Bonhams Greek Sale in Paris on November 24, 2022.

The painting La garde oubliée (The Forgotten Guard) was in the collection of legendary gallerist Alexander Iolas and encompassed the defining elements of the painter’s universe, including the sailor—his signature subject and one of the most celebrated images of 20th-century Greek art.

Tsarouchis painting a product of the Generation of the ’30s

Yiannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) was one of the leading painters of the Generation of the ‘30s. Another work by Tsarouchis, Épicerie à Mytiline from 1965, sold for €189,375 ($196.000) against an estimate of €80,000 to €120,000.

The sale, which consisted of 136 lots, made a total of €3,482,138.

Other highlights included:

  • Épithalamique, by Yiannis Moralis (1916-2009). Star of Moralis’s 1972 one man show. The work was part of the artist’s epithalamia series and echoed age-old memories of nuptial songs dedicated to the bride sung on the way to her marriage chamber. Estimated at €300,000 to €400,000, it sold for €605,175. Another work from the series, Épithalamique/diptyque, sold for €151,575 (estimate: €60,000 to €80,000).
  • Irô et Leandros, by Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-1985). The story of Irô and Leandros (Hero and Leander in English) is found in folk tales and love lyrics across Europe and beyond. Drawn from the treasury of Greek mythology, this artistic vision faithfully reflects Engonopoulos’s attitude towards painting as an ideal vehicle to probe into the world of Greekness. It sold for €252,375 (estimate: €60,000 to €80,000).
  • La photo oubliée, by Alecos Fassianos (1935-2022). Executed in 1975 during the artist’s ‘painterly’ period, the work demonstrated the mastery of color and the combination of control and freedom that secured his reputation both in his home country and internationally. Sold for €170,475 (estimate: €80,000 to €120,000). Le Cavalier blanc, painted in 1983 by the same artist sold for €63,375 (estimate: €50,000 to €70,000).

Bonhams Greek Art specialist, Anastasia Orfanidou, commented: “This was a very strong sale with many pieces far exceeding their estimates after fierce bidding battles in the saleroom, on the telephone and online.”

“The icing on the cake,” Orfanidou said, “was undoubtedly the world record price at auction for Tsarouchis’s masterpiece La garde oubliée which encapsulated so many of the themes that made the work of this wonderful artist so distinctive.”

The Greek Sale was a collaborative sale put together by Bonhams in London and its associates in Athens, Art Expertise.

Terpsichore Angelopoulou, director of Art Expertise in Athens, commented, “We’re very happy with today’s solid results that show Greek Art is consistently carving out a strong and growing niche among an increasing number of collectors from Greece and abroad. We expect this trend to continue in 2023.”

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