Two drawings of Old Testament subjects by the American-born portrait and history painter Benjamin West (1738-1820) proved the highlight of the latest sale of Old Masters & 19th Century Works on Paper at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in Mayfair.
The two black chalk drawings on sheets of buff paper measuring 21 x 13in (53 x 32cm) were both signed and dated 1787 (when the artist was Historical Painter to George III) and appear to be preparatory studies of large scale oils.
In subject and some compositional details, they relate to two paintings titled Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent and St John the Baptist produced for Thomas Macklin's great bible project (c.1793), but may also provide insight into the appearance of two lost works - perhaps those that formed the outer wings of a triptych centred around West's The Resurrection, now held in St George's Parish Church, Barbados.
Both came from a UK private collection and, save surface dirt and minor handling creases, were preserved in good condition under glass.
Estimated at £6000-8000 apiece at the July 24 sale, six phone bidders and a collector in the room battled for these works with St John the Baptist selling at £59,000 and Moses at £53,000.
A buyer's premium of 24% was charged.