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Nelson-Atkins Museum Sells Monet Masterpiece for $21.7M Sale proceeds from “Mill at Limetz, 1888,” formerly a painting owned jointly by the museum and descendants of Ethel B. Atha, will fund future acquisitions

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Above image credit: Night view, looking north, of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. (Photo | Roland Halbe)
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2 minute read

The night arrived, the auction occurred and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art sold one of its Claude Monet masterpieces.

As previously reported in Flatland, iconic auction house Christie’s expected “Mill at Limetz, 1888” to fetch a price between $18 million and $25 million. The gavel dropped with a final bid of $21,685,000, including fees.

Claude Monet's painting "Mill at Limetz, 1888."
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art sold a jointly owned Claude Monet painting, “Mill at Limetz, 1888,” through Christie’s auction house. (Courtesy | Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)

The sale on Thursday came on the heels of another Monet milestone. The French impressionist’s “Meules a Giverny” sold for $34.8 million on Wednesday at an auction hosted by Christie’s rival Sotheby’s.

The artist painted roughly 30 installments in perhaps the most famous of his various series

“Mill at Limetz, 1888” was unique in many ways, including in how it came to the Nelson-Atkins. 

The iconic painting was a partial gift to the museum, one made in 1986 by Ethel B. Atha, whose family was connected to the Folgers Coffee Co. “Mill at Limetz” is also unique in that it and its sister painting, now viewable by the public in the Barberini Museum in Germany, are a noteworthy early series by Monet. 

Atha kept a third of the painting in her family and gave the rest to the museum. Her daughter, Ethelyn Atha Chase, ensured the painting continued its residence at the Nelson-Atkins during her lifetime. When she passed away in September 2023, her heirs decided to sell their share.  

Nelson-Atkins Director and CEO Julián Zugazagoitia did not define the exact nature of the conversation with Atha’s descendants but rather noted that the decision to auction the painting was one made by the family and museum together. 

Zugazagoitia has previously expressed deep gratitude to Atha and her descendants, calling them visionary collectors and philanthropists. The museum plans to use its share of the auction proceeds to fund future acquisitions.

According to art market trends site, fine art sales are down 36% so far this year, with first-quarter proceeds totaling $1.3 billion. Lots sold have remained steady at 162,000.  

“Mill at Limetz, 1888” has been on regular display at the Nelson-Atkins since 2008. Once in possession of six Monets, the museum now counts five in its collection — it owns four, and another is on loan to it.  

Flatland contributor Haines Eason is the owner of startup media agency Freelance Kansas.

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