A scene showing fashionably dressed couples strolling alongside vegetable sellers by the canal on the Rio dei Ognissanti, it came to the auction on June 22-23 from a vendor whose grandfather had bought it from London dealer MacConnal-Mason in the 1930s.
The 2ft 7in x 2ft 3in (80 x 70cm) signed oil on canvas showed the Santa Maria del Rosario in the distance but, like many of Unterberger’s compositions, certain perspectives were expanded and some architectural features idealised or added for artistic effect.
Born in Innsbruck in 1838, the eldest son of an art dealer, Unterberger began his artistic training at the Munich Academy and initially became known as a painter of atmospheric Alpine landscapes set in his native Tyrol.
In 1864, he established himself in Brussels, though he spent much of his time travelling extensively across Europe, from Norway to Sicily, and gained a large international following for his Venetian scenes and panoramic coastal landscapes set in southern Italy.
At auction today, his works appear regularly and cover a wide range of prices from up to £100,000 for his large views of Venice’s most famous landmarks to the low thousands for smaller oils (or even under £1000 for a rarer watercolour).
Thanks to its subject matter and market freshness, the painting at Cheffins was always likely to fetch an above average sum and, estimated at £30,000-50,000, it sold at £56,000 to a UK private buyer.
An older, smaller and rarer work also generating interest at the Cambridge sale was a gouache by German artist Friedrich Brentel (1580-1651).
Measuring 7¼x 10½in (19 x 27cm), the idealised landscape with a rocky pool had a scene to the left showing Actaeon being transformed into a stag by Diana.
The artist was an engraver, etcher and miniature painter and produced a series of similar gouache studies from his Strasbourg workshop which were often derived from the prints of other artists such as Abraham Bosse.
This example came to auction having descended through the family of its late owner, Nigel Alington (1947-2018). Prior to 1792, it was kept at the Alington family home of Horseheath Hall in Cambridgeshire.
With the gouache being applied on vellum and heightened with gum Arabic (it had then been laid down onto wove paper), it was in good condition for its age with only some minor flaking and five rust marks on the paper backing from nails holding the picture in its frame. Crucially, the colours were well preserved.
Curiously, the artist’s signature to the left side seemed to have been deliberately obliterated – possibly to pass it off as by his more famous and valuable pupil Johann Wilhelm Baur (1607-42) or the even more valuable Jan Breughel the Elder.
In any case, at the auction, the provenance, condition and rarity of the work helped propel it above a £8000-12,000 pitch and after a good competition it was knocked down at £30,000 to a French trade buyer. The sum was the fourth highest for Brentel at auction according to Artprice.
Horse painter praise
Further down the price scale, a group of 70 works at Cheffins came directly from the studio of British sporting artist Peter Biegel (1913-87).
During his lifetime the artist was referred to as ‘the best painter of the horse today’ and these works mainly comprised works on paper featuring equine subjects (although one or two dogs and other subjects too).
Consigned from his family, they were grouped into 23 lots and raised a combined £5760 with all of them selling. The highest price among them came for one of the handful of oil paintings. Riding off to cover made £600 (est: £300-500).
One of the watercolours bringing interest had a racing theme: a view of the paddock at Sandown Park on the day before the Eclipse Stakes (a Group 1 flat race held in July). Measuring 6¾ x 9½in (17 x 24cm), it sold within estimate at £240.