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From a picture-buyer’s point of view, the main interest of the sale came from the fact that Alexander Mackay and his son Robert Ferrier Burns Mackay were assiduous art collectors who patronised and personally knew leading contemporary Scottish painters and etchers such Sir David Young Cameron (1865-1945) and James McBey (1883-1959).

Cameron was represented by what are now relatively low-value etchings (which at the time, during the great etching booms, would have cost the Mackays hundreds of pounds), but the sale did include three significant signed and dated McBey oil paintings.

Most hotly contested of these proved to be the 1924 canvas, Venice Gondolier. Measuring 153/4 x 2ft (40 x 60cm), this quintessential McBey subject sold to the trade at £7900 against an estimate of £3000-4000.

The similarly sized and estimated Venice, Mooring Posts, Salute, rated £6600, and the panoramic coastal scene, Easdale, a signed 20in x 2ft 3in (49 x 66cm) canvas provenanced to the St. James’s dealers Alex Reid & Lefevre, took a further £6700.

In 1927-28 Glencruitten House was remodelled by the noted Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer, whose painter brother, John Henry Lorimer (1856-1936), was represented in the sale by the large signed and dated 1880 genre canvas, Jeanie Gray, estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Inspired by a popular Scottish ballad, this 3ft 101/2in x 3ft 1in (1.18m x 94cm) canvas of two teenage sisters pledging eternal sororal love in a cottage interior, had been exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1880 before passing to the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland, who subsequently awarded it as a lottery prize.

Quite how the Mackays acquired the painting remains lost in the mists of time, but it found a new private owner here just above estimate at £16,000.
However, it was not Glencruitten House but another private Scottish vendor who provided Shapes with the most expensive painting of the day, a historically important 1613 portrait of Sir William Stewart of Grandtully, one of James VI’s favourite courtiers, by the Scottish court painter Adam de Colone (c.1593-1628).

Consigned by a direct descendant of the sitter, and in reasonably good condition for its age, this impressive 3ft 7in x 2ft 4in (1.09m x 71cm) panel painting was just the sort of work that might at a certain price have interested the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, but keen bidding from another branch of the sitter’s descendants pushed the price well beyond the £20,000-30,000 estimate before it was finally knocked down to an English dealer on the telephone at £46,000.