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    Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A. An Academy by Lampligh

    One of Joseph Wright of Derby’s most important candlelit pictures, and one of the last major works by the artist remaining in private hands, made a £7,263,700 record for the artist at Sotheby’s in London tonight.

    An Academy by Lamplight, painted in 1769, is a supreme example of Wright’s dramatic rendering of light, which in itself is a kind of metaphor for the Enlightenment movement with which he was so closely associated: the introduction of light into darkness acting as a metaphor for the transition from religious faith to scientific understanding and enlightened rationalism. Almost certainly the picture that Wright exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769, this rare painting was first securely recorded in the collection of Sir Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton (1857-1935), the scion of a great carpet manufacturing dynasty from Halifax, and has remained in the possession of his family ever since. It had been estimated at £2.5-3.5 million.

    The previous record for the artist was set in 2007 when Portrait of Robert Shore Milnes, with his horse and groom beyond sold for £3,647,830 at Sotheby’s New York.

    Two recently rediscovered landscapes by John Constable attracted competitive bidding: a first sketch for The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, c. 1819–20  made £2,289,000:  Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood, c. 1814-17 made £1,809,000.

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