8 Facts About Sotheby’s Auction House

sotheby's auction house

Did you know that the Sotheby’s brand is literally older than the United States of America? On March 11, 1744, entrepreneur, book dealer, and all around “joyous fellow” Samuel Baker held a book auction in London. That was 273 long years ago.

Baker went on to handle the auctions for many a prominent British library. After he died in 1778, his nephew, John Sotheby, inherited half of his estate, including the auction house. Over the years, the auction house changed hands and names several times, as well as expanded its purview well beyond books.

As a former art history student, I’m proud to be a part of Sotheby’s rich and enduring heritage. Here are a few fascinating facts about the Sotheby’s Auction House:

  1. Sotheby’s “unofficial mascot” is Sekhmet, the ancient Egyptian lion goddess of the sun. An ancient bust of Sekhmet was hung above the front door of its new digs when the company moved to London’s art district in 1917.
  2. After Napoleon died, Sotheby’s auctioned off the books he had taken with him to St Helena.
  3. Sotheby’s reputation for being an art house didn’t really ring true until the World War II era and the decades following it when it handled some high-profile sales, like Peter Paul Rubens’ Adoration of the Magi. 
  4. When Sotheby’s opened an office in New York in 1955, it became the first international auction house. The auction house started selling in Hong Kong in 1973 and France in 2001; both locations now have salesrooms. Today, the auction house is headquartered in New York.
  5. If you’ve got some high dollar bottles of vino or diamonds to sell, Sotheby’s also has two retail branches that can help you out: Sotheby’s Wine and Sotheby’s Diamonds.
  6. One of the most popular paintings in the U.S., Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter,” sold in 2002 for nearly $5 million.
  7. Sotheby’s has a world record for auctioning off the most expensive piece of contemporary art work: Mark Rothko’s “White Center” for a cool $72.8 million.
  8. If you’re into the surreal, buy a last minute ticket to London for the Surrealist Art Evening Sale on February 28, 2018 and enjoy this anatomy of an artwork video about Salvador Dali in advance:


Sotheby’s Auction House is just one of the many passion points of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty. Passion points are what light our fire and get us excited about being part of the Sotheby’s brand here in Park City. And from our global reach to the epic digital journey all of our listings make, there’s a lot to be passionate about.

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