William Prinsep watercolour

William Prinsep’s watercolour View across the inner harbour of Macau, £38,000 at Bonhams.

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Estimated at £3000-£5000 each, 10 x 13in (25 x 35cm) watercolour views titled Preparing chickens for market in Macau and View across the inner harbour of Macau sold for £36,000 and £38,000 respectively.

Both sold to the same buyer via thesaleroom.com as the online sale closed on June 12.

Prinsep belonged to a large Anglo-Indian family which produced several talented amateur artists. The fifth son of John Prinsep, an East India Company official regarded as the founder of the indigo trade in India, he worked for the bankers and merchants Palmer & Co, first in Calcutta and then in Macao. He took lessons in painting from George Chinnery, the English painter who spent most of his life in Asia.

Prinsep worked in Macao (where Chinnery had settled) from the late 1830s until he returned to England in 1842.

William Prinsep watercolour

William Prinsep’s watercolour Preparing chickens for market in Macau, signed and dated 1838, £36,000 at Bonhams.

One of these two watercolours (Preparing chickens…) is indistinctly dated 1838, the year before the First Opium War that would spell the beginning of the end for Macao as a 19th century trading centre. The images show a sparsely populated collection of coastal islands, a far cry from the resort city that is today one of the richest and most densely packed spots on the globe.

Many of Prinsep’s most desirable paintings depict sights in the Las Vegas of the East. His paintings of the A-Ma Temple in Sao Lourenço, Macau includes the oil of the temple interior sold for £15,000 at Christie’s in 2008. According to Artprice, the previous high for the artist was the watercolour Barrackpore House, beside the River Hooghly, Calcutta sold at Christie’s in 1998 for £22,000.

Trinidadian scenes

Michel Jean Cazabon watercolour

Michel Jean Cazabon’s The Tucker Valley Estate house, £24,000 at Bonhams.

Unlike Prinsep and his contemporaries, who travelled in search of artistic inspiration and to make a living, Michel Jean Cazabon (1813-88) was a native of Trinidad.

The mixed-race son of immigrants from Martinique who owned a sugar plantation, Cazabon was schooled as an English gentleman at St Edmund’s College in Ware, and later at art school in Paris. However, on his return to Trinidad in 1852 he is credited with introducing Europeans to the flora and fauna of the West Indies through plate books published the 1850s-60s.

George Harris, 3rd Baron Harris and governor of Trinidad from 1848-54, was a key patron. The collection of 44 Cazabon paintings displayed at his family seat, Belmont in Kent, is considered the key visual reference for 19th century Trinidad. Other collections of Cazabon watercolours were commissioned by William Burnley, the Scottish-American planter, John Lamont and the Earl of Dundonald.

A collection of seven 11 x 17in (28 x 43cm) watercolours by Cazabon were offered by Bonhams from the collection of Sir Frederick and Lady Warner with estimates ranging from £10,000-20,000 each.

Sir Frederick Archibald Warner (1918-95), who worked in the diplomatic service, was the son of Frederick Warner Sr. (1884-1917) who came from Trinidad, where his family had settled in the early 19th century.

The late Geoffrey MacLean (1942-2024), a leading authority on Michel Jean Cazabon, catalogued these works a decade ago and identified some of the subjects as the Tucker Valley Estate in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. Although there is very surviving little evidence of the estate today, in its mid-19th century prime the 5500-acre plot known locally as La Cuesa grew cocoa and coffee beans for an English owner named William Tucker.

Together these images of locals at their toil record, what Bonhams’ cataloguer called “a rare glimpse into a bygone era”.

Sold at £24,000 was a watercolour depicting the Tucker Valley Estate House while the image of showing four men raking and drying beans in a cocoa house took £28,000. Taking the top bid of £30,000 was half a dozen farmhands using poles to pick cocoa beans under a lush canopy.

Signed works such as this are rare visitors to the auction room, although there are some precedents. Several works by Cazabon have appeared in regional UK sales while, according to Art Sales Index, the record for the artist is the £95,000 bid at Christie’s back in 2019 for an oil titled Saint-Pierre, Martinique.