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    Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

    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.


    Monday, December 4th, 2017


    Irish interest in Sotheby’s Old Masters evening sale in London on December 6 will centre on a 1789 work by George Stubbs (1724-1806). Two Bay Hunters in a Paddock was commissioned by the Irish peer Arthur Annesley, 8th Viscount Valentia.  It is estimated at £1.5-2 million.  Highlights of the sale include one of the last and most important candlelight pictures by Joseph Wright of Derby left in private hands, a luminous 18th-century view of Venice by Bellotto, two recently rediscovered landscapes by Constable, and a gallery of portraits covering 300 years, from Cranach and Titian to Van Dyck.

    Alex Bell, Worldwide Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department: “Strong imagery, luminous works and great names have long been driving the Old Masters market but in the last couple of years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Early Renaissance and high Renaissance paintings among international collectors. With their simple and striking imagery, these works often find their way in very eclectic collections. We are therefore delighted that nearly half of the works in the sale consist of Renaissance pictures. We are also privileged to present rare works by three of the greatest and most influential British artists of the 18th century whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility: Constable, Wright of Derby and Stubbs.”


    Wednesday, November 15th, 2017


    A romantic masterwork by Marc Chagall smashed a long established record for the artist when it sold to a Russian private collector for $28.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York last night.  The evening sale of Impressionist and Modern art totalled $269.6 million, up 71% on last year.  Five of the top ten works went to Asia. Chagall’s Les Amoureux broke a record set for the artist in 1990 when his Anniversaire sold for $14.9 million at Sotheby’s. It had been in the same family collection since it was painted in 1928.

    Simon Shaw, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: “Tonight we saw an enthusiastic and expanding client base respond to a particularly strong and varied offering. From the depth and geographical spread of bidders, to auction records set for both established artists and those we don’t see as often in this category, it’s clearly an exciting time for the Impressionist & Modern Art market. While Russia took home tonight’s top prize, Asia was clearly a major story – we had seven different buyers spanning China, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong, and many more under-bidders.”


    Thursday, November 9th, 2017


    A rare pair of  famille-rose decorated cups from the Yongzheng period sold for £1.9 million at Sotheby’s in London on November 8.  The top lot in a sale of Important Chinese Art the cups are masterpieces of the fencai (‘famille-rose’) colour scheme. With the introduction of white enamel from Europe in the early 18th century, craftsmen working at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen developed a new palette and realised its full potential in the early years of the Yongzheng reign (1723-1735).

    These cups, painted with sophisticated shades of pastel tones to capture a sense of three-dimensionality, embody to perfection the refined aesthetic of the Yongzheng Emperor. The design, with sprays of fruiting pomegranate, peach and loquat, represents a variation of the auspicious ‘sanduo’ (‘three abundances’) motif – long life, an abundance of offspring and plentiful blessings.  The sale brought a total of £6.4 million.


    Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

    THE DONNERSMARCK DIAMONDS- image courtesy Sotheby’s

    The Donnersmarck Diamonds, a pair of extraordinary Fancy Intense Yellow diamonds with impeccable aristocratic provenance, will come up at Sotheby’s in Geneva on November 15   Formerly in the collection of the princely family von Donnersmarck they consist of a cushion-shaped diamond weighing 102.54 carats, and a pear-shaped diamond weighing 82.47 carats to be offered as a single lot.  The pair is estimated at $9-14 million.

    David Bennett, Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division, said: “These stunning diamonds carry with them a fascinating story, full of romance and determination over adversity, which could have inspired some of the greatest novels and operas, from Manon Lescaut to La Traviata. Ten years ago, they were the star of the show when we launched our very first sale dedicated to Noble Jewels here in Geneva. I am delighted to mark a decade of success by presenting these exceptional diamonds once again”.

    The Donnersmarck Diamonds were part of the collection of La Païva, Countess Henckel von Donnersmarck (1819-1884), arguably the most famous of 19th-century French courtesans, whose vertiginous trajectory from modest circumstances in her native Russia to the highest circles of European aristocracy was sensational. Her second husband was Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck (1830-1916), one of Europe’s richest men.  In 1855, shortly after they became a couple, La Païva purchased a building plot on the Champs Elysées. Hotel La Païva was to be one of the most lavish mansions ever built there.  La Païva’s lavish parties and literary gatherings soon became the most talked-about events in Paris, often attended by the likes of Gustave Flaubert, Émile Zola, the artist Eugène Delacroix and even the Emperor himself.  The diamonds remained in the family for more than a century until they came up at Sotheby’s in Geneva in 2007.  They have been in a private collection for the past ten year.


    Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

    Sir John Lavery, 1856-1941
    The Golf Course, North Berwick, oil on canvas, 1922.  UPDATE: THIS SOLD FOR £187,500

    A 1922 view of the golf course at North Berwick by Sir John Lavery is one of a number of highlights at Sotheby’s Scottish art sale in London on November 21. Lavery painted a series of canvases depicting the famous golf links at North Berwick between 1919 and 1921.  Winston Churchill remarked of them: “He shows us sunlight in all its variety – buoyant and bracing, with a touch of grimness on a Scottish golf links…”   This one is estimated at £150,000-250,000.
    Thomas Podd, Sotheby’s head of Scottish art said:  “This is one of our strongest offerings of Scottish art in years. We’re thrilled to be able to present one of the most significant and diverse groups of works available on the market by Joan Eardley, whose recent retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art was a clear indication of how highly revered this visionary artist has become. The Scottish Colourists are headlined by truly great examples by all four proponents, including one of the best still lifes ever painted by George Leslie Hunter.  An exciting post-war section includes an absolute masterpiece by Anne Redpath, a top notch example of one of Robin Philipson’s paintings of red poppies, and a fantastic group of works by John Bellany from the 1970s. Last, but not least, one of John Lavery’s coveted golf course scenes make a welcome appearance, following the success of a painting from the same series in our sale last year”.


    Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

    C.R.W. Nevinson – A Dawn

    An iconic depiction of French soldiers in 1914 by the leading British war artist C.R.W. Nevinson – A Dawn – comes up at Sotheby’s Modern and Post War sale in London on November 21.  It is from a landmark moment in the  career of Nevinson, who is widely considered the definitive British artist of the First World War.

    The painting encapsulates the best of his Vorticist style of the period between 1914 and 1916. It shows a seething mass of soldiers reduced to mechanical forms. First exhibited at Nevinson’s acclaimed 1916 solo exhibition at the prestigious Leicester Galleries, attended by the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and G. Bernard Shaw, it is one of very few paintings from this landmark show still in private hands.

    Simon Hucker, Senior Specialist in Modern & Post-War British Art, said:
    “Nevinson’s A Dawn ranks alongside the Tate’s La Mitrailleuse and the Imperial War Museum’s French Troops Resting as the very best of the artist’s war paintings, works that define our vision of the Great War. With the majority of Nevinson’s most important works in major museums, the term ‘museum-quality’ can be applied with total confidence to this profoundly powerful painting.”

    “It happened that I was the first artist to paint war pictures without pageantry, without glory, and without the over-coloured heroic that made up the tradition of all war paintings up to this time…. No man saw pageantry in the trenches.” (Nevinson).  The work is estimated at £700,000-£1 million.


    Friday, October 27th, 2017

    John Constable, R.A. (1776 – 1837) Dedham Vale with the River Stour In flood from the grounds of Old Hall, East Bergholt. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

    A rediscovered Constable landscape comes up at Sotheby’s Old Masters evening sale in London on December 6.  One of the most important additions to Constable’s oeuvre to have emerged in the last 50 years Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Flood is one of the last early views of “Constable Country” in private hands.  John Constable (1776-1837) is one of Britain’s best-loved and most significant landscape painters and this work is estimated at £2-3 million.

    Julian Gascoigne, Senior Specialist, British Paintings at Sotheby’s said: “Constable’s views of Dedham Vale and the Stour valley have become icons of British art and define for many everything that is quintessential about the English countryside.  Dedham Vale with the River Stour in Floodwas long mistakenly thought to be by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775-1862), a friend and contemporary of Constable’s, but recent scientific analysis and up-to-date connoisseurship has unanimously returned the work to its rightful place among the canon of the great master’s work and established beyond doubt its true authorship. It is without question one of the most exciting and important additions to Constable’s oeuvre to have emerged in the last fifty years”.

    The painting is thought to have been commissioned by Thomas Fitzhugh as a wedding present for his future wife, Philadelphia Godfrey, whose parents were neighbours and friends of Constable’s family. It is the view from the back garden of Philadelphia’s childhood home, and must have served as a perfect memento once settled into married life in London.


    Friday, October 27th, 2017

    Portraits of celebrated muses by Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso come up at Sotheby’s in New York next month.  Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer (estimate $35-45 million) depicting the artist’s great love and most prevalent subject, comes up at the Contemporary Art evening sale on November 16.  Pablo Picasso’s Buste de femme au chapeau (estimate $18-25 million) comes up at the Impressionist and Modern evening sale on November 14.  Each work is appearing at auction for the first time.  

    Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme au chapeau, Oil on canvas, Estimate $18/25 million

    Francis Bacon, Three Studies of George Dyer, Oil on canvas, in three parts, Estimate $35/45 million


    Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

    Bhupen Khakhar – De-Luxe Tailors

    The home collection of British painter Howard Hodgkin sold for a combined total of £5,184,887 over a top estimate of £3.8 million at Sotheby’s in London. Bidders had the opportunity to see his work alongside objects from Italy to India that had inspired him and responded with enthusiasm.  No less than 75% of lots sold for prices above their pre-sale high estimate.  The top lot was Bhupen Khakhar’s De-Luxe Tailors which soared above estimate to fetch £1,112,750 (estimate £250,000–350,000). This was a record for the artist. The work had previously been loaned by Hodgkin to feature prominently in the recent Tate retrospective of Khakhar’s work.

    Hodgkin’s friendships were  represented in his personal collection by works of fellow artists with whom he was particularly close. He once described Patrick Caulfield as “the closest I ever came to having a painter-colleague”. Caulfield’s Sweet Bowl  made £524,750.

    (See post on for September 10, 2017)