Vanessa Bell by Duncan Grant

Vanessa Bell in a Yellow Shawl by Duncan Grant – £260,000 at Bonhams.

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Offered at the Modern British and Irish art sale at Bonhams New Bond street on November 22, it was estimated at £50,000-80,000 and sold to a private British collector. With buyer’s premium, the price was £327,900.

Grant made numerous paintings and sketches of Bell over the course of their ever-evolving relationship and this one, from c.1911-12, was believed to be one of the earliest.

It shows Bell with a yellow shawl over her head and was executed in Grant’s ‘divisionist’ style which he began to develop at around this time. Grant had been inspired by both his Pointillist contemporaries in France as well as the ancient mosaics that he had greatly admired while in Sicily in early 1911. Bell referred to it as his ‘leopard manner’.

This 2ft 5in x 20in (73 x 53cm) oil on canvas remained with Grant and was part of his estate when he died but has been in the US for over three decades.

In 1987, it was acquired by Hirschl & Adler Galleries and was later bought from fellow New York dealer Davis & Langdale Company by Bonhams’ vendor.

The previous record for Grant was £140,000 for the 1913 portrait of George Mallory, another ‘leopard manner’ painting, which sold at Christie’s in 2016.

In terms of the top-selling Bloomsbury pictures, the £260,000 bid here matched the hammer price of a portrait of the novelist EM Forster by Roger Fry that sold at Bonhams in July 2020 (ATG No 2450).