It is no coincidence that the 2ft 6in x 4ft 2in (76 x 1.27m) Venetian scene The Return of the Bucintoro on Ascension Day offered by Hampel (29.5% buyer’s premium) in Munich on April 2 was clearly influenced by the work of Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto.
It is attributed to the British painter William James, who was active from 1730-80. Very little is known about his life other than that he painted Egyptian, Oriental and Venetian subjects, some of which he showed at the Royal Academy and other exhibition venues in London.
Remarkably, James never actually visited the locations he painted so precisely – it is almost certain that he never left Britain.
When Canaletto visited Britain in 1754, James was one of his studio assistants. After the former’s return to Italy, James continued to paint in his master’s style, copying or adapting his subjects and selling the finished products to collectors as souvenirs of their Grand Tour.
Today’s collectors also value his work as an accessible alternative to those of his famous master.
The bidding in Munich went above the €50,000-70,000 estimate and ended at €80,000 (£70,175), with the hammer falling to an international dealer who had bid by post.
£1 = €1.14