by Alex CaponMARKET-FRESH pictures in good condition by major names...meet all three of these criteria and success is virtually assured. And, as was evident at the March 1 sale held in Exeter by Bearne’s (15/10% buyer’s premium), two out of three ain’t bad.
Overall, the 93 pictures that got away from the 150 offered contributed more than £188,290 to the sale total, leaving Daniel Goddard, head of Bearne's picture department, quite happy.
But the main focus was of the two outstanding oil on canvas works which sold to the same London dealer - a William James (fl.1730-1780) which took £27,000 and a Willem Koekkoek (1839-1895) at £34,000.
Both came from the same source, a local vendor whose parents had bought them from E. Stacey Marks in East-bourne in the 1970s.
"These were both impressive works," said Mr Goddard.
"However, they were difficult to estimate because of some condition issues. Both had been cleaned and relined, and had undergone some minor overpainting by Stacey Marks. The sky in the Koekkoek especially showed signs of restoration."
As good and characteristic examples of the artists' work, in perfect condition they would undoubtedly have made significantly more but still did well enough.
Koekkoek's view of figures in a street certainly demonstrated his distinctive handling of colour and shade and his careful observation - qualities that make him the best-regarded painter of townscapes in the Koekkoek dynasty.
However, he is best known for his winter scenes - like the large example offered at Tennants in November which was in better condition than the Bearne's picture and made £90,000.
Still, the 2ft 2in x 2ft 9in (66 x 84cm) work at Exeter was signed in the bottom right and comfortably exceeded its £15,000-20000 estimate.
William James' 4ft 1in x 3ft 4in (1.25m x 75cm) oil on canvas The Grand Canal at Santa Stae, Venice also evinced the key qualities that admirers look for in his work.
It showed his debt to Canaletto, and, like many of his works, suggested that he may have been the assistant to the Venetian artist when he was living in London.
Two versions of this view have appeared at auction in the last 18 months. One sold at Bonhams Bond Street at £28,000 in July 2004 and another made £30,000 at the same saleroom in December 2003. Another view of the Grand Canal by William James is appearing at Sotheby's British sale on March 22 with a £40,000-60,000 estimate.
The Bearne's sale also included two orientalist watercolours by Charles Robertson (1844-1891) consigned from a charity. The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, which measured 2ft 5in x 2ft (74 x 61cm), made £15,400 and The Flower Market, Damascus, which was signed, had a label on the backboard and measured 15in x 2ft 3in (38 x 69cm), took £10,200.
Both were in good condition and sold to the West Country trade.
When compared to some of the damaged and unfinished Robertson paintings sold at Potburys last month and featured in last week's Art Market, these pictures again highlight the role that condition plays in determining the level of bidding.