Venice watercolour by William Wyld
‘Figures on the Piazzetta, Venice’ by William Wyld – £2400 at Lawrences.

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While many objects prove to be standard fare, occasionally a rarity is brought in, such as this watercolour of figures on the Piazzetta, Venice, which was donated to St Margaret's Hospice in Minehead, north Somerset.

On receiving the work, staff at the branch decided to check the opinion of a specialist and it was taken to Lawrences of Crewkerne for assessment.

Signed by the artist William Wyld (1806-86) and dated 1839, picture specialist Richard Kay knew immediately it was a valuable work, although its condition was compromised by some fading and foxing, especially to the sky.

The 11.5 x 17.75in (29 x 45cm) watercolour was estimated at £600-900 at the Lawrences auction on July 5 and drew a good competition before it was knocked down at £2400 to a West Country dealer.

Lawrences does not charge vendor’s commission to charities and Richard Kay said St Margaret's Hospice was “over the moon” with the result.

Good vintage

Wyld was born into a wealthy merchant family and worked for a spell as a wine merchant and diplomat. Inspired by the watercolours of Richard Parkes Bonington, he practised drawing and painting from a young age and from 1827 he found a steady market for his works.

After 1834, he decided to concentrate on painting full-time, setting up a studio in Paris and producing mainly Orientialist and architectural scenes.

The date of this watercolour at Lawrences coincides with the large-scale painting Venice at Sunrise that Wyld exhibited at the 1832 Paris Salon, the work which won a gold medal and effectively made his name as an artist.

He would later receive the patronage of Queen Victoria and a number of his watercolours can now be found in the Royal Collection.

The auction record for Wyld, according to the Art Sales Index, was set back in 1999 when Bonhams sold the painting The Waterfront Venice for £44,000.