A Borders property provided Thomson Roddick (15% buyer's premium) with a sensational discovery for their sale in Rosewell, Edinburgh on December 4.
Unearthed in a tea chest were 16 topographical drawings by the
'father of British watercolour painting' Samuel Scott (1701/2-72).
They were unframed, unsigned and, sometimes, unfinished, but when
picture specialist John Thomson researched them, he also found them
to be unpublished works that do not feature in Richard Kingzett's
1982 catalogue raisonné of Scott's oeuvre.
The family in whose home the works were found had been utterly
unaware of their existence. It emerged after the sale that the
family had ancestral links to the Bristol and Bath area where,
sometime around 1766, Scott retired with gout.
The drawings had been stored for at least two generations,
folded under a pile of books which appeared to have preserved them
in reasonable, rather than good, condition and all required
These watercolour, pencil and ink sketches on joined paper -
some over 3ft (91cm) across and with ink annotations in the
artist's hand - were predominantly views of the Thames, presumably
preparatory works for the oils Scott painted at his Covent Garden
The fact that a number of these highly detailed drawings in the
manner of the van de Veldes apparently relate to major finished
pictures, means they probably date from the mid-1740s.
It had been the arrival of Canaletto in London in 1746, and the
stimulus he gave to the demand for London views, which prompted
Scott to extend his talents from marine painting to the
topographical views of the Thames and its bridges for which he is
now best known. As a painter in oils, Scott has commanded very
substantial sums: the Wills sale at Sotheby's in July 2005 included
some outstanding pictures by him, including a 1746 oil of The
Thames at Westminster Bridge with barges, which sold for a
However, drawings and watercolours appear less frequently, and
works of this unusually large scale are extremely rare.
A 13 x 23in (33 x 57cm) watercolour of Twickenham from the
Thames, 1758, which made £8500 at Sotheby's in June, provided
Thomson Roddick with their guidelines, although the pictures were
offered without reserves.
In fact, the exceptional cache of rediscovered pictures
collectively sold for more than £300,000 with ten works making
five-figure sums. There were two principal telephone buyers.
Agnews' Christopher Kingzett (whose father wrote Scott's
catalogue raisonné) bought a number of works, including one of the
large London views, A Wood Yard by the Thames at Nine Elms, 131/2in
x 2ft 11in (34cm x 89cm), at £50,000.
They were the underbidders to another London dealer on a further
11 works, including a view of shipbuilding on a Thames wharf with
Westminster Bridge beyond knocked down at £52,000 - a price shared
with another view of buildings by the Thames which could well be an
auction record for a Scott watercolour.
For more on watercolours and drawings, see the Art
Market section this week's printed newspaper. To subscribe,