That was the gist of Martel Maides’ (17.5% buyer’s premium) September 6 sale in Guernsey where a clutch of Dutch Old Masters went under the hammer on September 6.
The trio – a pair of still lifes and a marine painting all by bankable Dutch names – had not been to auction in over three decades and came with good provenances and old gallery invoices.
“It’s not often we get the opportunity to handle Old Master paintings of this standard in our quarterly sale,” said Martel Maides director James Bridges. “It was a good opportunity to highlight what can be achieved in a regional saleroom nowadays with the reach live bidding platforms provide to access a truly global audience.”
While pre-sale interest came predominantly from the European trade and private bidders on the continent, there was also serious enquiries from the Caribbean, Australia and the Middle East.
“In the end, we had six phone lines booked across those lots. Most of the clients expressed interest in all three works but didn’t necessarily bid on all of them during the sale,” said Bridges.
De Heem still life
The top seller was a still life of fruit by Cornelis de Heem (1631-95), purchased in 1973 by the vendor’s parents from New Bond Street dealers, Frost & Reed. The Dutch artist specialised in still lifes and flower works, and was tutored by his father, the great 17th century still life painter Jan Davidsz de Heem (c.1606-84).
At auction, the duo has racked up some strong prices over the years; de Heem senior has fetched $6m, while de Heem’s junior’s best examples have sold into six-figures.
The 20 x 14in (51 x 36cm) canvas in Guernsey featured a garland of plums, grapes, oranges, peaches and cherries tied with a blue bow.
Less elaborate than de Heem’s most sort-after still lifes, it still attracted strong interest tipping over the top estimate to sell at £32,000. The buyer was from the continental trade, beating competition from a London dealer and a private bidder from overseas.
“We were very pleased with the price this achieved,” said Bridges, citing that another still life of similar composition but larger in size had been left unsold against a £20,000-30,000 estimate at Christie’s King Street in 2012.
Forces of nature may have affected the performance of the other Dutch still life, an arrangement of summer flowers by Jan van Os (1744-1808).
It had come from the same source, but failed to get away on the day against a strong £25,000-30,000 estimate. As this column went to press, the auctioneer was completing an aftersale with a private overseas buyer. This client had been due to bid on the lot, but was caught up in the events surrounding Hurricane Irma.
From a separate source, and included among half a dozen British maritime scenes, was a marine by Ludolf Bakhuizen (1630-1708).
The 20in x 2ft 5in (53 x 73cm) oil on canvas of a Dutch frigate and fishing boats floating offshore in stormy weather had been acquired in 1983 from Frank Cockett, the well-known collector and authority on early maritime painting.
A note attached and dating to 1988, stated that Cockett had acquired it from the collection of the 4th Earl of Listowel at Christie’s. Condition was a handicap.
“The Backhuysen, although a magnificent painting with lovely provenance, had suffered from a rather unsympathetic and stiff relining at some stage in the last 20-30 years, which did deter some potential bidders,” said Bridges.
Despite generating the most pre-sale interest, it sold for £22,000, just above the reserve, to a private overseas buyer in the Middle East, against a rival telephone bid from a European dealer.