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Hebrew Bible, rare Rousseau to star at New York spring auctions

A host of rare works including the world’s oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible and a Gustav Klimt waterscape making its auction debut headline New York’s spring sales starting this week.

The Codex Sassoon is more than 1,000 years old and is one of only two codices containing all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to have survived into the modern era.

It is the most expensive historical document or manuscript to ever go under the hammer and is tipped to fetch up to $50 million at Sotheby’s on May 17.

The auction house is also offering Klimt’s 1901-1902 painting “Island in the Attersee.”

The Austrian painter’s work is appearing at auction for the first time after decades in private hands and is expected to sell for in the region of $45 million.

“His waterscapes are very few and far between and it’s very unusual to have an opportunity like this,” said Sotheby’s modern evening auction head Allegra Bettini.

At Christie’s, the star lot is Henri Rousseau’s “Les Flamants,” which is set to smash the record price at auction for the renowned French post-impressionist painter.

The 1910 oil on canvas, part of his celebrated jungle series, is one of fewer than ten works in private hands that are attributed to Rousseau.

“You could go an entire lifetime without seeing a painting like this,” said Max Carter, Christie’s vice chairman of 20th and 21st century art.

“It’s probably one of the two or three rarest paintings I will ever see at Christie’s,” he added.

The auction house expects the work, which has been in the same private collection since the 1940s, to sell for up $30 million on Thursday.

The current auction record price for a Rousseau is $4.4 million, which was set three decades ago.

Other Sotheby’s highlights include Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1985 ode to jazz “Now’s the Time,” which is predicted to achieve more than $30 million. 

Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider” sculpture from 1996 is estimated at between $30 million and $40 million — the highest ever for one of her works.

The imposing structure, which is ten feet (three meters) tall and more than 18 feet wide, is also on the auction block for the first time.

“When you think about monumental outdoor sculpture in the 20th century, this is the one that you think of,” said Sotheby’s contemporary evening auction head Kelsey Leonard.

Another work certain to attract keen bidding is Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s “Haze Days” from 1998. 

The nearly six-feet-tall painting depicting a cherubic young girl with a steely glare boasts a high-end pre-sale estimate of $18 million.

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