‘SEE NAPLES AND BUY’ is a headline that has previously made its mark in the Antiques Trade Gazette when some Neapolitan scene has tickled the fancy and the bank balance of a determined picture bidder, but it was never more applicable than in the case of the Worcestershire couple who bought the superbly preserved Attilio Pratella (1856-1949), shown right, at the Colwyn Bay auctioneers Rogers Jones & Co (6% buyer’s premium) on September 27.
For the last 30 years the couple have always spent their summer holidays in the same idyllic spot overlooking the Bay of Naples. Clearly unconcerned by the risks of being exposed to too much of a good thing, the couple always make sure their latest issues of the Antiques Trade Gazette are forwarded to them on holiday.
There they were sitting on their balcony enjoying pre-dinner gin and tonics when the glorious scene in front of them was reproduced in a signed 11 x 193/4in (28 x 50cm) Attilio Pratella canvas illustrated in an advertisement for Rogers Jones’ North Wales sale.
Such once-in-a-lifetime synchronicity was impossible to resist and when the businessman and his wife came back from holiday they saw off all competition at the sale itself with a bid of £14,500 against an estimate of £5000-6000.
This was one of a group of 12 paintings that Rogers Jones offered from a private collection and had not been seen on the market for at least 50 years. The price for the Pratella was one of the best achieved for the artist in recent years, but even more expensive was the £18,000 bid in the room on behalf of a ‘Welsh-American’ private client for a typically painstakingly detailed Charles Spencelayh (1865-1958) watercolour of a man plucking a pheasant in a lamplit interior.
Measuring 12 x 10in (30 x 25cm), this had been estimated at a cautious £6000-8000.
However, for most local buyers the main focus of this Colwyn Bay sale was the earlier, specially-dedicated section of 105 lots of Welsh art which was inevitably headed by one of the inimitable palette-knife landscapes by Kyffin Williams’ (1918-). Over the last three or four years, desirable examples by Wales’ Greatest Living Artist have metronomically sold at auction for solid prices in the £10,000-20,000 range and a well-preserved 19in x 2ft 5in (48 x 74cm) canvas of a Caernarfonshire mountain path sold at £14,500 against an estimate of £8000-10,000.
Presented in its equally inimitable original 1970s frame, this attracted serious interest from at least half a dozen bidders before falling to a London gallery on the telephone.
Total for this 190-lot sale, which included 70 lots of maps, was £137,000.