Friday - 19 September 2014

Trafalgar touch gives Pompey £82,000 appeal

09 June 2004Written by ATG Reporter

WITH the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar beckoning next year, and market-fresh, unrestored marine pictures in ever-dwindling supply, it was hardly surprising to see this exceptionally well-preserved Panorama of Portsmouth Harbour, right, by Thomas Elliott (fl. 1790-1800) inspire intense, multiple-estimate bidding at Christie’s South Kensington’s (19.5/12% buyer’s premium) May 26 Maritime Sale.

This impressively-scaled signed 2ft 10in x 4ft 7in (86cm x 1.40m) canvas, entered by a private vendor who is thought to have acquired the painting from the Parker Gallery in the 1970s, had been featured in loving close-up on the front cover of the catalogue. Fine details like rigging are notoriously susceptible when early marine pictures enter a restorer's studio, but in this case, though the canvas had been relined, the paint surface was superbly preserved with all the ropes and figures in near-pristine condition.

The ship in the centre of the composition was identified as a flagship of the Red Squadron - one of the most important command vessels in a Nelsonian battle fleet - and, apart from the impressive array of military shipping on show, the subject was also desirable for showing plenty of topographical details of the Royal Navy dockyards at Portsmouth during the period of the Napoleonic Wars. After lengthy competition on the telephone from an American underbidder, the painting was finally knocked down to an "anonymous buyer" at a sale-topping £82,000 against an estimate of £15,000-25,000.

Overall, this CSK marine sale netted a hammer total of £733,570 from 297 picture lots, 131 of which (33 per cent) were left unsold. This outcome was some way below the pre-sale estimate of £854,355-£1.25m, but, although bidding was highly selective for anything that had been through the marine painting treadmill, there were renewed signs of life in the market for contemporary yachting pictures.

A fresh injection of interest from American buyers was thought to have firmed up the prices for historic yachting subjects by the likes of Stephen J. Renard (b.1943) and Martin Mackrill (b.1962), which have been stagnating for the last year or so. Here at CSK a European private buyer had to go to £22,000 (estimate £10,000-15,000) to see off the opposition for a 3ft 4in x 5ft (1.01 x 1.52m) Martyn Mackrill canvas, bottom right, of the J-class yachts 'Valkyrie (III)' and 'Britannia' racing off Hunter's Quay during the 1895 Clyde Regatta. A slightly smaller Stephen J. Renard canvas of 'Britannia', 'Candida' and 'Astra' racing off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, in 1928 was another solid performer at an upper estimate £15,000.

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Written by

ATG Reporter

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