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 biggest acquisitions. As a private citizen, the retired real estate developer is now behind one of the most valuable Old Master works ever to come to auction.

When Sotheby’s opens Masters Week on 26 January 2023, all eyes will be on Peter Paul Rubens’s Salome given by the Chief Serba of St. John the Baptistmacabre early work rediscovered in 1998. Experts believe it could sell for up to $35 million, more than five times the price paid for it at a New York Sotheby’s auction in in 1998, then a record for a Rubens work at auction.

The 1609 work is one of 10 paintings from the Fisch Davidson Collection, arriving at Sotheby’s courtesy of a lengthy divorce settlement between Fisch and Rachel Davidson, a former New Jersey judge. Including 17th- and 18th-century masterpieces by Orazio Gentileschi, Valentin de Boulogne, and Bernardo Cavallino, the auction house calls the collection “one of the most important collections of Baroque art ever to appear on the market. “

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Away from the auction block, the separation is known for its ability to have long-term effects on divorce proceedings in New York State. Lawyers for wealthy clients seeking divorce have long been the first to file, often in smaller counties where they feel they will judges more conservative and complacent than wealthy men, a practice known as “forum shopping.” Fisch’s attempt to file in Suffolk County, where the couple owns a $4 million Southampton vacation home, was rejected by an appeals court, forcing him to fight the divorce case in Manhattan.

Before an auction in January, paintings from the collection, valued at a total of $177 million, were exhibited at Sotheby’s New York, and will later be seen at its locations in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London. In addition to the Rubens, highlights include Saint Mary Magdalene, a late Renaissance work by Orazio Gentileschi ($4 million to $6 million), and a recently discovered painting by the master 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 crowned with thorns ($4 million to $6 million), depicting Jesus with a tortured face, the early Baroque work sold for $5.2 million at Sotheby’s in 2016.

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The Fisch Davidson Collection auction follows other notable divorce-fueled sales, such as the $922 million Macklowe Collection, the most valuable collection ever sold at auction, also by Sotheby’s. The January sale may not have the strength of work with Warhol, Rothko and Richter all going on the market at the same time, but the circumstances surrounding the 2023 event are less bitter.

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