The Private View at the Royal Academy, 1881, is the last of Frith’s great panoramas (which include The Derby Day and Railway Station) and comes fresh to the market after 135 years in the same family collection.
Writers Oscar Wilde and Anthony Trollope, actress Ellen Terry, Prime Minister William Gladstone and artists Frederic Lord Leighton and John Everett Millais are among the eminent faces, who are depicted surrounded by leading paintings of the day. These include Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s Sappho and Thomas Sidney Cooper ‘s The Scape-goat.
It is on sale from dealer Martin Beisly Fine Art.
A specialist in Victorian painting, sculpture and Pre-Raphael ite art , Beisly previously worked at Christie’s for 20 years before leaving to work on the restoration of Farringford, Alfred Tennyson’s home on the Isle of Wight.
He began dealing in 2015 and opened his new Ryder Street gallery last month.
Regarding the £10m price tag for the Frith, Beisly says: “His other great panoramas were sold as soon as they were painted – like ours – but then have stayed in public collections, so one needs to look at recent famous Victorian images that have been sold.”
He cites, for example, Edwin Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen, which was sold to National Galleries of Scotland in 2017 at a specially discounted £4m down from its original £10m estimate at Christie’s.
The Frith work passed down through the family of Alfred Pope, the original buyer, and is the last of Frith’s ‘panoramas of modern life’ remaining in private hands.
Beisly has conducted extensive research on the picture for his sale catalogue with Frith experts Mark Bills and Rosie Jarvie. Among their findings is a letter from the artist responding to the owner’s request to paint out Wilde in light of the scandal surrounding his 1895 trial. He writes: “Would it not be well to wait the issue of the trial?”