NEW YORK -- At least $10 million in art and antique English silver once belonging to the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife -- including an early work by the Renaissance painter Raphael -- will be auctioned at Christie's in two sales next week.
The items were consigned by the Philippine government of President Corazon Aquino to recover "ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former president Marcos, his immediate family and coterie of relatives, friends and close business associates," according to a brochure for the sales.
So far, Christie's has sold $1.4 million of recovered Marcos loot. These sales -- scheduled for Jan. 10 and 11 -- are expected to fetch from $9.8 million to $14.4 million. Proceeds will primarily benefit the country's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Movement, as well as provide aid to victims of the severe earthquake that hit the Philippines last July, the Philippine government said.
Of the 93 old-master paintings, Raphael's barefoot "Saint Catherine of Alexandria," an altarpiece painted around 1503, is potentially the most valuable, with a pre-sale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The painting, just 15 inches high by 5 5/8 inches wide, formerly belonged to the Contini Bonacossi collection in Florence. A preparatory drawing of the work is in the Louvre.
"It's not a Raphael of major importance -- that would be a $50 million painting," said Ian Kennedy, Christie's old-masters specialist. But "it's still very rare," he said. "They hardly ever come up at auction. It's universally accepted as a Raphael."
The cache of old masters for years had been displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, apparently on loan from Imelda Marcos, the former first lady now in exile in New York.
"Our national museum decided these paintings were not part of our national heritage. As you know, we're a cash-strapped government," said Teresa Roxas, spokeswoman of the presidential commission appointed by Aquino to liquidate Marcos's former holdings.
Other highlights include Titian's romantic "Portrait of Giulio Romano, Holding the Plan of a Church" and El Greco's "The Coronation of the Virgin," each estimated at $300,000 to $500,000.
The silver collection, estimated to bring $2.9 million to $4.3 million, formerly functioned as an elaborate service in guest houses near the Malacanang Palace, according to Roxas. Among the better-known guests were Christina Ford, George Hamilton and Van Cliburn. "Both the silver and the paintings cost a lot of money to maintain," she said.
In November 1987, Christie's sold "Sweet Peas in a Vase," by the French painter Fantin-Latour, for $440,000. The painting was discovered wrapped in a blanket under a bed in a Fifth Avenue apartment that Imelda Marcos used during her frequent buying binges in New York. According to the presidential commission, there was evidence that 12 to 15 paintings hung there before their hasty evacuation following Marcos's fall. In total, at least 100 artworks are still missing, according to Roxas -- including two Monets, a Renoir and three Picassos.
In addition to the 71 old masters offered by the Philippine government, Christie's will offer another 22 old masters, formerly controlled by Imelda Marcos along with Saudi financier and jet-setter Adnan Khashoggi. Those paintings are now in the custody of the U.S. government and will be sold by court order. They were used as evidence in the racketeering trial of Khashoggi and Marcos in New York last spring. The two were acquitted.