Rembrandt's 'St. Peter' Fails to Go at Auction : Art market: Bidding at Christie's falls short at $9.5 million, furthering worries of a slump.

From Reuters

An early Rembrandt portrait of a repentant St. Peter failed to sell at Christie's Thursday, furthering art market worries of a slump.

Bidding on "St. Peter Repentant," painted by the famed 17th Century artist in 1631, stopped at $9.5 million, just short of the $10 to $15 million presale estimate.

"It clearly shows that the reserve was too high," said New York dealer Alan Salz of the seller's minimum acceptable price, which was not disclosed.

Rembrandt experts had expected the piece to go for as much as $20 million, following the recent sales of Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" for $82.5 million and Renoir's "Au Moulin de la Galette" for $78.1 million.

Salz said that the painting came up in London two years ago in the private market and struggled to sell before going to Miami real estate developer Joe Friedland. Salz "was under the impression that he (Friedland) paid more than $9.5 million two years ago," and that price was in the range of the Christie's estimate.

More than 40% of the 151 lots offered Thursday failed to sell, with only 87 selling for a total of $8.1 million. Two weeks ago, contemporary and impressionist sales registered a 30% non-sale rate, sending waves of fear through the art market that the five-year boom is finally over.

Despite the disappointing sales, some dealers maintain that the art market is still healthy.

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