Fisch-Davidson’s sublime Baroque collection


One of the world’s largest private collections of Baroque art is about to hit the market. Sotheby’s has been chosen to disperse this unique collection, presented as the largest private collection of Baroque masterpieces assembled in the modern era. A museum-quality ensemble featuring paintings of dramatic scenes, passionate outbursts, contradictory movements, exacerbated contrasts and elaborate drapes via a series of biblical subjects specific to the Baroque aesthetic.

A penitent Mary Magdalene with rolling eyes, a Saint Bartholomew with the knife used to strip his own skin, a Christ crowned with thorns, a bloody beheading of Holofernes, another of John the Baptist…. “What sets the Fisch Davidson Collection apart is the sustained level of quality of the paintings, combined with a willingness to embrace powerful subjects that others collectors might have found ‘difficult’” notes Keith Christiansen, former chief curator of European paintings at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Orazio Gentileschi, Marie Madeleine


Keith Christiansen is well acquainted with these exceptional Baroque works. He is also well acquainted with Mark Fisch and his wife Rachel Davidson, having advised them on their acquisitions and having witnessed their generosity towards the European Paintings Department at the Met where Mark Fisch is a member of the board of trustees. A former real estate developer, Mark Fisch is indeed behind some of the American museum’s most important acquisitions.

Like the dispersion of the incredible Macklowe collection at Sotheby’s (fall 2021 and spring 2022) whose two sessions generated a total of $922.2 million, the Fisch-Davidson sale has been programmed in the context of divorce proceedings the couple.

A major Rubens expected on 26 January 2023

Sotheby’s has scheduled the sale for 26 January 2023 during Masters Week in New York. It will offer 10 Baroque masterpieces from the Fisch-Davidson collection, the total value of which is estimated at $117 million. In the past, these works have been exhibited at the Met, the National Gallery in London and the Prado Museum in Madrid. They include paintings by Georges DE LA TOUR, Orazio GENTILESCHI, Bernardo CAVALLINO and VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE, whose Christ with a Crown is an early Baroque masterpiece that was part of the Taubman Collection before selling for $5.2 million in 2016 at Sotheby’s.

The highlight of the sale is a sumptuous painting by Peter Paul RUBENS that Sotheby’s is hoping will fetch $35 million, potentially the third highest price for a Rubens at auction. It depicts a dramatic scene in which John the Baptist’s freshly severed head is presented to Salomé (The Head of John the Baptist presented to Salome, 125 x 137 cm). Painted around 1609, the painting entered a private French collection in the 1760s and then disappeared, only to resurface two centuries later. The French family who rediscovered it in their collection thought they had a work by one of Rubens’ pupils, and not by the master himself. After its re-attribution to Rubens, the painting was sold at auction for $5.2 million in 1998. Today, Sotheby’s believes it is worth six times more, and, if it exceeds its high estimate, it would be among the most expensive Old Master works ever sold at auction.

Rubens, The Head of John the Baptist presented to Salome, c. 1609


The New Testament scene in the Rubens work was painted at the same time as another masterpiece by the artist, The Massacre of the Innocents, which became the most expensive Old Master painting ever auctioned when it fetched a record $76.7 million at Sotheby’s in London twenty years ago. An oil-on-panel, The Massacre of the Innocents was carrying an estimate of £4 – £6 million, but enthusiastic bidders at the New Bond Street salesroom that day pushed the price up to £45 million, the second highest auction price ever paid for an artwork at the time.