The 14in x 3ft (35 x 91cm) oil on canvas, depicting the regiment practising manoeuvres at Devil’s Dyke near Brighton, went under the hammer at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (21% buyer’s premium) on July 10-11.
Making its auction debut, the picture was consigned to the sale by Colonel Joynson of the 14th/20th King’s Hussars.
It had been acquired by his family from Captain Ramsay of Barra Castle in Scotland, an early member of The Artists Rifles.
The regiment was raised in London in 1859 as a volunteer light infantry unit largely consisting of painters, sculptors, engravers, musicians, architects and actors.
The painting sold for nearly five times its top guide at £3400 – to The Artists Rifles itself, officially known today as the 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Artists) (Reserve), which raised the funds from its members.
Recognised for his Orientalist subjects, Hodgson was among the early members of the St John’s Wood clique who volunteered for the Rifles, which is part of the British Army Reserve.
“It is very rare for a painting by a member of the regiment depicting The Artists Rifles troops to come on the market,” said Eddie Jones, charity secretary of thetrenchexperience.com and Artists Rifles Museum Collection volunteer, who bought it on behalf of the regiment.
After researching the location and uniforms, Jones dated the picture to 1863 when The Artists Rifles were joined by other regiments at Brighton under the leadership of Thomas Heron Jones, 7th Viscount Ranelagh (identified as the mounted figure in a dark tunic).
Jones also believes he has identified the painter and sculptor Frederick Lord Leighton as one of the tall officers of the group of three, seen in profile.
The painting will hang in Regent’s Park Barracks in London, where the rest of the regiment’s art collection is displayed (away from public view), including the only other known oil version of John Nash’s famous First World War work, Over The Top.
Unusual Munnings subject
The BHL sale was topped by a privately consigned watercolour by Alfred Munnings (1878-1959). The small, signed 8 x 10in (21 x 25cm) watercolour from 1898 depicts two children playing bagatelle, an unusual subject for a painter whose equine themes are so familiar.
It had formerly been in the collection of John Shaw Tompkins, an early patron of the artist, and appeared in an exhibition of the painter’s work at Norwich Castle Museum in 1928. The painting sold for £10,000 to a local collector against a £6000-8000 guide.
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