Friday - 25 July 2014

Trio of Victorian classics comes to saleroom

09 September 2013Written by Alex Capon

Three pieces of Victorian art from the Leverhulme collection will be offered at Sotheby’s in London later this year with a combined estimate of £9m-14m.

While the estimates may seem relatively punchy, interestingly, the works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot will be taken on a world tour before the sale on December 4, with Sotheby's hosting viewings in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, New York and Los Angles as well as London.

Building up air miles in this way is now customary for top-end pieces Modern and Contemporary art, but it is unusual in the Victorian market. They will also be offered in an evening sale primarily alongside Old Masters rather than 19th century British pictures - another departure from the usual practice in the Victorian sector (in fact, Sotheby's have another major Rossetti in their British and Irish art sale two weeks before).

It seems evident that this is an attempt to engender greater international interest in these pictures, following on from a number of recent high-value private sales of Victorian works as well as the record £13.2m set by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones' Love among the Ruins sold at Christie's in July - a result which may have drawn these works to the market.

Prestigious Collection

The consignment of the three pictures has come 12 years after Sotheby's dispersal of the Leverhulme Collection at Thornton Manor, Merseyside, in June 2001 - an auction that raised over £9m and was the highest-grossing English country house sale at the time. These three works did not feature in that event and were instead placed on loan at the Lady Lever Art Gallery by the executors of the 3rd Viscount Leverhulme's estate.

The collection itself was started by Victorian soap-magnate William Hesketh Lever, the 1st Viscount Leverhulme, who bought Rossetti's 1867 oil on panel A Christmas Carol, while the Tissot and Holman Hunt were purchased by his son, the second Viscount.

A Christmas Carol was one of Rossetti's last paintings of the model Ellen Smith and she was shown here in Venetian-style dress playing a musical instrument. It is estimated at £4m-6m.

Holman Hunt's Tuscan Girl Plaiting Straw, which was painted in Fiesole, outside Florence, in the winter of 1869, depicts an Italian peasant girl standing with dove perched on her shoulder. It is estimated at £3m-5m.

Finally, Tissot's A Visit to the Yacht is an oil on canvas showing a group of figures assembled on the deck of a boat and has been estimated at £2m-3m.

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