This 2ft 5in x 2ft ½in (75 x 62cm) bust length portrait drew the attention of a number of bidders with a particular interest in historical pictures when it appeared at auction in Dorchester.
It was catalogued at Duke's sale
last month as Follower of Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680).
Provenance: Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire, formerly home of the
Earls of Shrewsbury and thence by descent. Estimate
A decent illustration accompanied this
straightforward description and as soon as he saw it, Mayfair
dealer Fergus Hall thought that under the layers of varnish lay an
autograph work by Lely himself.
Among others who saw the catalogue for the
September 27-28 sale and reached the same conclusion were Mr Hall's
near neighbour in Dover Street, the Sleeper-Finder General, Philip
Mould, and Sunday Times art critic Waldemar
Januszczak - both, like Mr Hall, ardent admirers of Van Dyck and
Bidding on the phone, Mr Hall, who left a
career in finance to set up Fergus Hall Master Paintings in
Albemarle Street in 2008, beat them both to the portrait with a bid
"I felt that it could be an autograph work
when I saw the catalogue," Mr Hall told ATG. "After I'd seen it
properly I was sure. My restorer is delighted with the condition
Next step is to identify the sitter.
In his blog, Bendor Grosvenor, who works with
Mr Mould as viewers of BBC TV's excellent Fake or Fortune
will know, wrote: "This fine Lely surfaced in a country sale today
- but unfortunately we were outbid. Here, we think the sitter might
have been William Brouncker, the famous mathematician."
Mr Hall also thinks the 2nd Viscount
Brouncker a likely candidate - the Cheltenham Art Gallery and
Museum has a much larger oil of the aristocratic genius catalogued
as 'by Peter Lely and studio attributed to' - but he is doing more
"I have no reservations about the portrait being an autograph
Lely but I will be showing it to [17th century British paintings
scholars] Diana Dethloff and Catharine MacLeod who are working on a
full catalogue raisonné," he said.