2650 NEDI Wimbledon Auctions Monkey Painting

Continental Old Master/orientalist school: a whimsical anthropomorphic oil painting on canvas, estimated £200-300 at Wimbledon Auctions, sold for £3000.

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Instead of people, mischievous anthropomorphic monkeys populate village festivals, opulent feasts and domestic scenes. It was a category of artistic expression championed by the Flemish engraver Pieter van der Borcht (1530-1608), Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), and the two Teniers brothers, David Teniers the Younger (1610-90) and his younger brother Abraham Teniers (1629-70).

For an example, see David Teniers the Younger, ‘The Monkeys at School’, oil on copper, on display at the Prado in Madrid.

'Singerie' tradition 18th century France

Heading into the 18th century, the genre experienced great popularity in France, originating with the French Rococo decorator and designer Jean Berain (1640-1711), who frequently included dressed monkeys in many of his arabesque wall decorations.

This simian tradition continued with artists such as Christophe Huet (1700-59), famous for his Grande Singerie and Petite Singerie decors at the Château de Chantilly.

Even the famous porcelain manufactory Meissen jumped on the bandwagon, producing a ceramic monkey band around 1753, the year that Madame de Pompadour purchased 19 of the figures.

So when an 18th century orientalist school anthropomorphic oil painting of monkeys appeared at Wimbledon Auctions of south London on June 24, much pre-sale interest was generated, with 16 bids left online prior to the auction.

Delicately painted in colourful hues, numerous child-like monkeys in traditional dress were playing, their animated expressions ranging from curiosity to amusement, inviting viewers into their world of mischief and entertainment.  The background featured exotic oriental birds, temples and mountains.

Estimated at £200-300, bidding started at a healthy £2800 with anticipation that it could take off. However, it appeared the battle had already been fought online and with just one more bid, the painting hammered down at £3000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) to an online buyer.

Not a bad outcome for a painting which up until last weekend was hidden away in a garage in Esher.