As well as the large number of lots coming forward, the busy auction autumn season has yielded a few stand-out pictures in the English regions with a scattering of strong five-figure and six-figure sums for traditional British works.
Dreweatts (25% buyer’s premium) had its fair share when a number of high individual prices came among a group of works by Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) and his nephew William Daniell (1767-1837). Offered as part of a single-owner auction in Newbury on November 16, together the 11 lots made a hefty £345,900.
The collection came from a château in south-west France. The eclectic range of art and objects housed in the Château de Lasfonds, located about two hours’ drive from Bordeaux, was consigned by ‘an international collector’. Although the auction house would not release any further details about the source, it did confirm that they were not French.
The pre-sale publicity stated that the 237 lots had been ‘carefully curated over the course of the last 30 years’ with an eye to the vendor’s ‘British heritage and the English country house tradition’.
Most of the works by the Daniells had been bought at auction in the last 20 years. Due to the market expanding over recent times with ever-increasing participation from Indian bidders, some notable returns were recorded.
Dreweatts head of house sales and private collections Joe Robinson said that 20 different bidders registered for the 11 lots, most of whom were Indian private buyers.
Collaborate to win
Thomas Daniell was a landscape artist who obtained permission from the East India Company to travel to Calcutta to work as an engraver in 1784. He was joined by his 16-year-old nephew following the early death of William’s father and together they remained in India for nearly 10 years producing a series of remarkable topographical pictures that were later published as plate books.
The top lot of the Château de Lasfonds sale by some distance was a view of Benares (now known as Varanasi) showing boats and pilgrims by the Panchganga river and Durga Ghats. Dating from c.1800, the 20½ x 16½in (53 x 42cm) oil on canvas was one of the paintings worked up from the numerous sketches and drawings that he and William made on their first tour of India as they tavelled along the Ganges, sailing past Benares.
However, only a small group of oils depict the Ghats (the flight of steps leading down to the river). These include another that sold for £90,000 at Christie’s in 2003 and a watercolour that is now at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven.
This example had previously appeared at Christie’s in September 2001 where, according to Artprice, it was unsold against a £50,000- 70,000 estimate.
Assuming the picture had been acquired as an aftersale at around the low estimate, the extra interest now commanded by such pictures by the Daniells, especially one like this showing a key religious centre in India (the Panchganga is one of the most important places of pilgrimage and ritual bathing in the sub-continent), meant it was clearly now a significantly more valuable proposition.
On the day, strong bidding emerged against a £120,000-180,000 pitch. It was eventually knocked down at £190,000 to an international trade buyer, the fifth-highest price for Thomas Daniell at auction, although the most ever recorded for a smaller-format example such as this - something that underlined the current strength of demand.
Also bringing good bidding but making a lesser sum was a slightly earlier Thomas Daniell view of China.
Dating from c.1798, the painting of Chu Chung Fort on the Pearl river was again probably based on the sketches he and William made on one of their two visits to China: the first on their way to India in 1785, the other on their return to England in 1793.
Although not listed in Maurice Schellim’s catalogue of the Daniells’ paintings, it was believed to be one of the small number of works they made of Chinese subjects.
While the 17½ x 23in (45 x 59cm) oil on canvas was significantly smaller and less dynamic in terms of composition than the much grander view of shipping at Whampoa in China that made what was then a major record £335,000 at Christie’s in 1999, it still nevertheless found interest. With the pitch set at the lower level of £10,000-15,000, it duly sold at £22,000 to an international private collector.
Meanwhile, the two highest prices among the William Daniell lots on offer were both for Scottish subjects. Such scenes formed a notable part of his oeuvre after 1814 - the date that the first volume of Richard Ayton’s book, A Voyage round Great Britain, was published.
The eight volumes that appeared from 1814-25 feature numerous Daniell aquatints that were highly praised for their artistic quality.
At the same time William worked on other projects, which included a large number of Scottish paintings for Royal Academy exhibitions. According to the Dreweatts’ catalogue, this 21¼ x 4ft 2¼in (54cm x 1.28m) oil on canvas was possibly a Royal Academy exhibit from 1820, where the title was given as The town and entrance to the bay of Cromarty.
This view of the northern Scottish port had some scattered retouching visible under UV light. Even still, it drew plenty of attention against a £15,000-25,000 estimate and sold at £42,000 to the international trade. The sum not only represented a strong mark-up on the £18,000 it had fetched at Bonhams Edinburgh in September 2014, but it also appeared to be the highest price for a single Scottish scene by William Daniell at auction.
Also demonstrating the growth in the artist’s market, a 19¼in x 2ft (49 x 62cm) oil on canvas of Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire Coast which had taken £7500 at Bonhams Edinburgh April 2015 sold here at £27,000.
The picture had a few condition issues - a patch repair on the reverse to the right side in addition to some scattered retouching - but this appeared to be reflected in the £7000-10,000 estimate. Again, it sold to an international dealer.