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Given the potential contradictions and political incorrectness of putting on view paintings of rare birds with 12-bore shotguns, Bonhams were careful to devote separate days to their picture and gun sections.

However, one of the paradoxes of the hunting community is that a number of people who enjoy shooting birds out of the sky also enjoy collecting ornithological pictures of birds, creating the potential for “crossover” between what some people, townies at any rate, might expect to be entirely
separate client lists.

“We wanted to hold a sporting pictures sale and put a different angle on it,” explained expert-in-charge, Pippa Stockdale.

“We were worried combining ornithological pictures with guns might not work, but a lot of gun clients collect pictures of birds. We think it worked sufficiently well for us to repeat the same format on November 28.”

Bonhams might have been encouraged by the reaction to this experimental sale format, particularly as it subsequently attracted a significant private collection of material that will be the core of the November sale, but in pure statistical terms the first day’s picture section was very much a qualified success.

Overall the pictures totalled £92,150 from 145 lots, of which only 49 per cent managed to find buyers, 70 per cent of whom were private collectors.

A group of eight ornithological watercolours by Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly (1896-1971), estimated in the £300-500 range, met with complete indifference in this context, as did a re-lined and recently re-offered Heywood Hardy (1842-1933) oil of dogs returning with partridge to a pair of tweed-jacketed sportsmen in a field (estimate £20,000-30,000), despite being featured on the front cover of the catalogue. By contrast, a Wright Barker (1864-1941) oil of a covey of partridge, flying in formation 633 Squadron-style over a hedgerow just before being blown out of the sky, attracted some private interest, heading the picture section with a lower estimate £6000 from a UK collector.

Like the Heywood Hardy, this signed 2ft 4in by 3ft (71 x 91cm) canvas had been re-lined and previously offered, albeit over two years ago at a Christie’s South Kensington sporting art sale, where it failed against an identical estimate of £6000-8000.

Sporting art is one of the most intensively exploited sectors of the market and it will be interesting to see if the new combination of pictures and guns will have long term-appeal.