When in 1721 the bubble burst, Knight escaped to Calais together with his evidence of bribery. Although captured and incarcerated in Antwerp, he was later released as neither government wished to have his incriminating evidence exposed. His estates in England were confiscated and sold for £261,077 but he still had sufficient funds to set up in Rue St-Honoré in Paris as well as an estate near Vincennes. He returned to Essex in 1743.
Painted in 1722, Lucifer’s New Row-Barge shows Knight aboard a regal ship populated by devils and filthy lucre. The numerous annotations in white include lines such as Except None, Cheat All, Show No Remorse of Conscience and My Hearts Zealous for my Countries Ruin [sic].
Measuring 2ft 4in x 2ft 1in (72 x 62cm), it was offered at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury on January 11, among the 63 lots belonging to theatrical impresario Sir Michael Codron (b.1930). The diverse collection, formerly furnishing his London flat, has been collected over 50 years.
Estimated at £3000-5000, the well-preserved painting was hammered down at £24,000 (plus 22% buyer’s premium) to Sutton Coldfield dealership Thomas Coulborn & Sons, buying for stock.
The January sale of furniture, clocks and works of art – a traditional curtain-raiser for the new year auction season – posted a hammer total of £475,000 with a selling rate of 84% across just under 700 lots.