A bit before lunchtime Thursday at a Sotheby’s auction in New York, a painting by Titian of the Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria, proved that sometimes, the art market has good sense and even taste. The picture, painted in Venice around 1560, was being billed as “one of the most important multifigural compositions by the artist remaining in private hands and … the finest work by the artist to come onto the open market for two decades”—all more or less true. But the thing is, it’s not really all that stunning a work. It is all about Titian, toward the end of his career, revisiting the subjects he treated as a young man, but in his brushy late style. Which means it doesn’t quite have the charm and grace of the early works, or the raw energy of the later ones. The result: The painting had a low estimate of $15 million—and the hammer came down at precisely that number. “A bit of an anti-climax,” said the auctioneer to the room. In fact, it was an auction record for the artist—but only because his paintings so rarely come up for auction. In 2009, a really great Titian sold privately for almost $90 million.