The mixture of 19th and 20th century British pictures as well as Old Masters met with a generally strong response from the dealers, collectors and friends of the late art critic who packed-out the saleroom. The event was conducted by Hugh Edmeades in his final sale as full-time Christie's auctioneer (he will continue as a consultant at the firm and a freelance auctioneer).
Offered in a specially-staged sale in London last week, the 248-lot Sewell collection posted a £3.74m total (including premium) with a number of record prices set. Overall, 224 of the 248 lots (90%) found buyers.
Sewell had previously worked as a specialist at Christie’s for almost nine years before going on to become an award-winning journalist and author. One of his colleagues at Christie’s in the 1960s, Noël Annesley, now an honorary chairman of the auction house, said: “The results achieved at Christie’s for the collection of my esteemed former colleague and mentor Brian Sewell gave particular pleasure. They demonstrated the appeal to today’s collectors of the extraordinary wide range of pictures and drawings from all periods which he had selected during a lifetime’s devotion to art. It was a celebration of a remarkable eye and a wide sensibility.”
Among the four works setting records sums was Dido reclining, asleep by Daniele da Volterra (1509-66). Sewell acquired it in the early 1960s as a work by a follower of Michelangelo but Christie’s research led to a new attribution to Volterra – an artist associated with Michelangelo and who was famously commissioned to ‘make decent’ the nudes in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment fresco by adding strategically-placed loincloths to the figures.
The sketch apparently linked to Volterra’s bronze sculpture in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich. Leading the sale, it overshot a £100,000-150,000 estimate and was knocked down at £660,000.
The earliest drawing in the collection also generated solid interest – a rare study by artist and architect Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-1536) for a ceremonial bench in Siena. Featuring statues of ancient heroes in the niches such as Hercules and Brutus, the chalk and ink sketch from around 1527 attracted bidding beyond its £100,000-150,000 estimate and sold at £290,000, again posting a record sum.
The best performing of the three paintings by Matthias Stomer (c.1600-1652) was the oil painting Saint Jerome which was pitched at £100,000-150,000. Sewell had bought at auction and had then identified it as by the hand of the Flemish painter. Here it sold at £300,000.
Another strong competition at the Sewell sale came for a red chalk drawing Man’s head in profile by Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652). Christie's attributed it to the Spanish master after it was deemed typical of Ribera’s technique. Estimated at £6000-8000, it sold to an online buyer at £22,000.
The sale took place on September 27 and the buyer’s premium was 25/20/12%.