Most recently, two fine examples which dated from the artist’s later period when he painted for pleasure as he travelled through Europe appeared at Skinner (23/20/12% buyer’s premium) in Boston.
Both had been in a private American collection for nearly a century and their market freshness helped them draw strong interest.
One was an architectural study from 1909 of the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune Fountain) in Bologna. Although the artist made several views of the scene, this 12¼ x 18in (31 x 46cm) watercolour, gouache, and pencil on paper was a particularly luminous and freely painted plein-air picture which provided a stark contrast to the artist’s more familiar formal portraits. It was described in the artist’s catalogue raisonée as “one of the most subtle and beautiful of Sargent’s architectural studies”.
Estimated at $50,000-70,000, it was knocked down at $150,000 (£116,280).
The other work at Skinner dated from 1913 and depicted an olive grove in San Vigilio, an Italian village on the shires of Lake Garda. Pitched at $35,000-55,000, it sold at $70,000 (£54,265).