'Portrait of a percheron and his groom at the Simonds brewery, Reading' by Philip Reinagle – £15,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

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A striking 19th century portrait of a dapple grey percheron horse standing with his groom outside a brewery in Reading was one of the top selling lots at Salisbury saleroom Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium).

Offered in an Old Masters, British and European Paintings sale on September 4, the 2ft 3in x 2ft 11in (70 x 89cm) oil on canvas shows the pair standing in the yard of Simonds Brewery, later renamed Courage Brewery, in whose boardroom it hung until bought by the vendor in 1986. Philip Reinagle (1749-1833), the Scottish portraitist and sporting artist, painted the work in 1813, the year the brewery won a contract to supply beer to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

Woolley & Wallis picture specialist Victor Fauvelle described it as “an interesting composition” in which “the horse really stood out against the background and the groom was nicely painted too.”

It was knocked down at £15,000 to a trade buyer for nearly double the estimate.

Simonds Brewery was founded in 1785 by William Blackall Simonds and developed rapidly in its early years. By the 1790s, it had a new brewery complex designed by the neoclassical architect Sir John Soane, a portion of which possibly features to the left of Reinagle’s painting. The brewery later became a pioneer of pale ale in the 1830s, including India pale ale, which the company exported to the British Army in India.

Elsewhere in the sale, a Constable-type river landscape with a rainbow by French Romantic painter Paul Huet (1803-69) was another highlight at £16,000 (estimate £4000-6000). It sold to a buyer in North America.

Huet was greatly influenced by British landscape painting and travelled the French countryside, notably Normandy, to observe and paint its specific features, light and weather conditions.


A river landscape with a rainbow by Paul Huet from the collection of Lord Astor of Hever – £16,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

The 22in x 2ft 8in oil on canvas was one of a dozen lots from the collection of the Conservative peer and former defence minister, Lord Astor of Hever.

Of this selection of 19th century English and Dutch marine paintings and watercolours of Hever Castle in Kent (the former residence of the Astor family) half was sold.

From another private collection, two oils by American Orientalist painter Addison Thomas Millar (1860-1913), who visited the Middle East in 1896, got away above expectations to two private buyers.

The larger of the works, A merchant of arms Rue du Diable, Alger, took £7800, while An Oriental Shop made £9000. The latter depicted colourful rugs hung around the doorway and was closer in composition to his most popular works.

Top lot in the sale went to one of Luigi Bechi’s (1830-1919) ‘peasant paintings’ of children in scenes of rustic domestic happiness. Deux Petits Ciociari, a signed 4ft 6in x 3ft 4in (1.37 x 1m) oil on canvas of children playing with a cat, sold on bottom estimate at £25,000.

Nineteenth century Italian pictures have had a pretty torrid time on the secondary market over the last decade. For example, at its height in 2008, Deux Petits Ciociari made $120,000 (£63,000) at Bonhams and Butterfields in New York and, five years later realised €48,000 (£40,000) at Christie’s Amsterdam. Catalogued under a different title, it had failed to sell at Sotheby’s last year.


Little Nell by John Lavery – £9500 at Woolley & Wallis.

The pick of the portraits in Salisbury was a small oil study of a young girl with her grandfather by John Lavery (1856-1941). The 14 x 18in (35 x 46cm) oil on canvas, titled Little Nell, was inscribed by the artist and given to the painter William Pratt (1855-1936) in 1885. It passed by direct family descent to the vendor.

It was close in composition to another double portrait in the collection at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Lavery painted several works reflecting on youth and age, most famously in Père et Fille (1900), the self portrait of Lavery and his daughter Eileen in the Musée d’Orsay. The hammer price tendered by a UK phone bidder was £9500 (£7000-10,000 estimate).