The highlight of this year’s Old Master picture series in London was a pair of Roman vedute by Bernardo Bellotto (Venice 1721-1780 Warsaw).
The Forum with the Temple of Castor and Pollux (shown here) and
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in the Forum, both 2ft 3/8in x
3ft 21/8in (62 x 97cm), are among a group of pictures of Rome
painted by the youthful Bernardo Bellotto c.1742-43 at the outset
of his independent career under the strong influence of his uncle,
Antonio Canal, il Canaletto.
They were purchased by the merchant and banker Joseph 'Consul'
Smith (c.1674-1770) - the single most important patron of
Canaletto's career - and were among a group of pictures sold by his
widow in 1773 to the MP Patrick Home of Wedderburn
Consigned from outside the EU, they were subject to VAT rate of 5
per cent payable on hammer price and at 17.5 per cent on the
buyer's premium. However, this did not appear to damage their
commercial appeal. They improved upon a £3m-4m estimate to sell to
a European private buyer at £5.8m.