Last week’s Old Master, British and European Pictures sale featured a broad range of fine works dating from the Renaissance all the way through to the early 20th-century, including pictures by renowned artists such as Jean Berain, Thomas Hudson, James Wilson Carmichael, William Wyld, Henri Fantin-Latour, Philip de László and many others. The auction saw competitive bidding across the board with many strong results for traditional oils, as well as a few exciting surprises in the works on paper category.
Early on in the sale, the offering of maritime pictures attracted significant interest, with nautical views by James Wilson Carmichael, Charles Edward Dixon and Frank Henry Mason all sailing off above their pre-sale estimates.
Head of sale Charlotte Russell auctioned off the James Wilson Carmichael view of Greenwich, eventually putting the hammer down at £8,500 after competitive bidding across digital platforms. She commented:
“What made this particular picture so extraordinary was not just its quality, crisp clarity and striking visual appeal, but also its subject matter. The architecture of Greenwich is beautifully rendered, with the Royal Observatory and what is now the Old Naval College clearly visible, and the large wooden warship to the right of the composition, which was being used as a floating hospital at the time this was painted, was another fascinating detail.”
Another striking Victorian view painting which achieved a strong result during the sale was William Wyld’s large and impressive Venetian Vista, selling for a hammer price of £16,000. Charlotte commented:
“William Wyld’s Venetian view beautifully combined the architectural astuteness of the 18th-century view painters with the sensibility of the Victorian era. It was so encouraging to see traditional 19th-century oils achieve such strong hammer prices. This shows that even with changing collecting tastes the market has remained very buoyant.”
It was a good day for portraiture too, and we were pleased to follow this summer’s highly successful sale of works eminent Anglo-Hungarian portrait painter Philip Alexius de László with a collection of no fewer than nine portraits by the artist. All of the lots sold, many above their estimates. One highlight was the striking portrait of businessman and philanthropist Sir Frederick George Painter, which sold for a hammer price of £9,000.
“This was a very charismatic and stately portrait. He has something of the 18th-century ‘swagger portrait’ about him. The brilliant results which we achieved for De László’s works over the summer were followed by a very worthy second act this month.”
Hungarian artists proved popular during the auction, and one of the lots which caused great excitement on the day was a group of erotic scenes by the painter and graphic artist Mihály von Zichy. Two international telephone bidders battled it out, with bids (and saleroom temperatures!) rising to great heights. The hammer eventually came down at £13,000. Charlotte commented:
“It was quite rare to have four of Von Zichy’s erotic scenes pass through auction. The last time a group of multiple scenes came up for sale at a British auction house was around ten years ago, so it was a very exciting lot in many ways!”
Another, final surprising result was a small watercolour scene depicting a floating market in the Philippines, which was identified as being by a Spanish artist of the 19th century. International interest on several bidding platforms took the hammer price to an impressive £8,500.
Charlotte said: “Pictures of topographical interest continue to surprise us. This vivid and evocative view of a floating market was a true rarity and it was wonderful to see it be appreciated by multiple bidders, and achieve such an extraordinary price.”