Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

At Colchester auction house Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium), a 16-lot collection of mainly 19th century pictures by established British names all found new homes in a sale on February 13.

The group had been acquired as part of a larger collection of art and antiques by a wealthy local collector who bought them from the London trade in the 1970s. Old trade labels appeared on the reverse of most, and they were consigned in good condition with there-to-be-sold estimates.

Daniell depiction

The star was a 6 x 10in (16 x 25cm) ink watercolour of the Malabar Coast off India by William Daniell (1769-1837). It bore a label for London dealers Appleby Bros.

Estimated at £400-600, five phone lines and a bidder on thesaleroom.com pushed the price to £12,500, where it was knocked down to the latter. The continental buyer was new to the auction house.

While in rosier times for the watercolours market a top Daniell could command upwards of £100,000 for an oil and over £50,000 for a work on paper, this sum was still a meaty price in the current climate.

The same online buyer also secured for a multi-estimate £4800 a pair of views of Calcutta by William Prinsep (1794-1874), a talented amateur artist who studied under George Chinnery.

Exhibited at Spink, the 9 x 12in (23 x 31cm) pair included a view titled Garden Reach and another labelled Tolly’s Nullah, a stretch of the Hooghly River which was excavated by British officer William Tolly in 1775.

Watercolours by famous names can represent extraordinarily good value. A case in point was a 4 x 7in (11 x 17cm) watercolour of Christchurch Abbey in Hampshire, cautiously attributed to JMW Turner (1775-1851).

Turner’s watercolours are numerous – he devoted a large part of his career, from the 1790s-1830s, to the production of topographical watercolours – they also vary wildly in price.

Described by Reeman Dansie specialist Jonathan Benson as a “cracking little watercolour”, this topographical work bore a 1950s Fine Art Society label inscribed with the same attribution. Estimated at £600-1000, it sold to a local collector for £6000.

Well-timed Wright


Boys blowing up a bladder by candlelight catalogued as ‘After Joseph Wright of Derby’ – £7000 at Reeman Dansie.

Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-97) got a good airing in December when Sotheby’s set a new record for the artist in London with a £6.3m ‘candlelit’ painting.

A well-timed inclusion to Reeman Dansie’s sale therefore was a 19th century copy of an original painting by the artist depicting two boys blowing up a bladder by candlelight. For more than half a century, the 2ft 11in x 2ft 4in (90 x 71cm) oil on canvas had belonged to the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, which resides over a collection of art housed in The Minories in Colchester, named after the local collector, Clarence Victor Batte-Lay.

Deaccessioned because it did not fit with the foundation’s focus on East Anglian art, the work attracted plenty of pre-sale interest, selling to a local buyer for £7000 against an appealing guide of £500-700.

Sporting pictures from the 19th century are showing pockets of strength within the Victorian art market. A 50-lot strong group of mixed-owner pictures was led by a 2ft 2in x 3ft 3in (66 x 99cm) oil on canvas by John Cyril Harrison (1898-1985) of an eagle swooping down to attack grouse.

It bettered a guide of £5000-7000 to sell for £7400 – marginally more than the £6000 paid for the same picture back in February 1992 at Christie’s London.

A picture of a ptarmigan on a rock face by George Edward Lodge (1860-1954) sold for £4400, against a £1500-2000 estimate. In total, the picture section totalled £112,500, with 78% sold by lot.