NEW YORK, N.Y. – A 17th-century portrait that once hung in the living room of Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air home — and was only recently reattributed to the Dutch master Frans Hals — sold at auction Wednesday for $2 million.
“Portrait of a Man,” painted in the early 1630s, went to a buyer bidding by phone at Christie’s sale of Old Masters.
Its presale estimate had been $700,000 to $1 million.
A Hals scholar, Seymour Slive, had listed the painting as a “doubtful” work by the Dutch artist in a 1974 catalogue, judging by a black and white photo of the work.
After Taylor hung it in her California home in the 1950s, “It academically fell off the radar,” said Nicholas Hall, head of Christie’s Old Master paintings.
But last summer, Christie’s and Pieter Biesboer, the retired curator of Old Master paintings at the Frans Hals Museum in Holland, confirmed the work was by Hals.
“From 20 yards away one could tell that it was an utterly authentic Hals, a totally characteristic picture with all the bravura, brushwork … the very expressive face,” Hall said.
Depicting a gentleman in a black coat and white collar with his hands folded, the painting is signed “FH.”
Taylor’s art dealer father, Francis Taylor, acquired it and gave it to her in the 1950s. She hung it over her fireplace near an iconic lithograph portrait of herself by Andy Warhol that sold at Christie’s in December for $662,500.
“Portrait of a Man” was the only Old Master she owned.
She was very fond of it. In 1956, while recuperating from back surgery at New York Presbyterian Medical Center, she had her hospital room decorated with “Portrait of a Man” and several other paintings, including a Renoir and Monet.
“She really digs the Frans Hals,” her husband, Mike Todd, told reporters at the time.
The auction record for Hals is $13.9 million for his “Portrait of Willem van Heythuysen, seated on a chair and holding a hunting crop.” It sold at Sotheby’s in 2008.
Screen and stage icon Taylor died in March at age 79. Other paintings from her collection will be sold by Christie’s in London on Feb. 7-8.
In December, the auction house sold her collection of jewelry, fashion and memorabilia. Among the highlights was a pearl necklace that sold for $11.8 million.