In 1881, at around the time of his 18th birthday, the orphan and Eton College schoolboy John Edmund Hugh Balfour went on a major spending spree.
Having managed to access his annual
allowance without his trustees' consent, he splashed out on an oil
painting by Stubbs, a racehorse, a pair of Holland & Holland
shotguns and two Paul Sandby watercolours.
The latter, which depicted local views of
Windsor and Eton, appeared at the sale held by
Lawrences of Crewkerne on January 18.
Fresh to the market and in excellent
condition, they were offered separately and both drew dramatic
bidding well beyond their £10,000-15,000 estimates before they were
knocked down to the same London dealer.
These high-quality topographical scenes were
vintage subjects for Sandby who, along with his brother Thomas,
lived on the Royal Windsor estate after 1751 and was given licence
to roam and paint throughout the grounds by George III himself. He
would often produce numerous pictures of the same viewpoint, as he
obsessively recorded the minor details that caught his eye. Many
such works are now in the Royal Collection and, while prints of
these views appear on the market from time to time, original
watercolours such as these are much rarer at auction.
Despite the heavy snow on the day of
Lawrences' sale, the auctioneers decided to press ahead with the
event - a decision which was duly vindicated as serious levels of
interest arrived from a host of buyers.
First up was a view across the Thames from
the Eton playing fields with Windsor Castle in the background. The
12 x 19in (30.5 x 48.5cm) pen and ink with watercolour took
The second picture, a 10½ x 22in (26.5 x
56cm) work in the same medium, was entitled Eton, View from
With the college's Henry VI chapel and
Lupton's Tower both visible in the background, as well as the
exquisite details to the busy figures in the foreground, it appears
to have commanded a premium and sold at £120,000.
The buyer's premium was 19.5%