Still Life with a Violin, a Teapot and a Clock by a follower of Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten, £10,000 at Dreweatts as part of the Wodehouse Collection.

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The Wodehouse Collection, offered as part of Dreweatts(26/25% buyer’s premium) Old Master, British and European Art auction, was the kind of assemblage the picture trade loves.

Comprising around two dozen Old Masters pitched at the middle market, the group boasted a longstanding ancestral provenance and had not appeared at auction before.

It included pictures also in need of a little TLC with several works meriting further specialist research.

Staffs mansion

The collection – a combination of 25 loosely attributed British and continental still lives, portraits and religious works offered on March 2 in Donnington Priory – came from the Grade II*-listed country mansion known as The Wodehouse, situated near Wombourne in Staffordshire where they were surplus to requirements.

Remarkably, the house has never been sold in its 900-year history, with the current owners inheriting the property by marriage.

It is most notable as the family seat of the Georgian landscape designer and musicologist Sir Samuel Hellier (1672-1727) who created the core of an important collection of musical instruments and literature.

The pictures at Dreweatts had been in the Hellier family for generations and all had a fair amount of grime and dirt to show for it.

On the day, all bar six lots sold to total just under £125,000, well above pre-sale predictions with the trade particularly active.

Dreweatts picture specialist Anne Gerritsen said quality, provenance and conservative estimates all played a role in the strong market response to the group, adding: “An ancestral collection fresh to the market always has a lot of appeal for buyers.”

Still-life activity

Several still-lifes stood out. A 23in x 2ft 4in (59 x 72cm) oil on canvas of a violin, teapot and clock by a follower of Dutch painter Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten (1630-1700) was knocked down to the UK trade at £10,000, more than three times its estimate.

According to the family, it depicted the famous ‘Hellier Stradivarius’, one of the best-preserved violins made by Antonio Stradivari in c. 1679 and now in the Stradivari Foundation in Cremona. (Interestingly, the violin is noted for its inlaid decoration on the ribs which is thought to be the work of Stradivari’s own hand yet is not visible in the painting.)

A note to the verso of the picture stated it had also been exhibited at the County Museum in Warwick in 1968, possibly with the real violin.

Eagerly contested by the UK trade to £26,000 was an attractive 19in x 2ft 7in (48 x 79cm) oil on panel Still Life with a Roemer, Oysters and Bread and Butter on a table.

It was catalogued as by a follower of Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680), one of the principal Dutch Baroque still-life painters best known for his restrained compositions of glass and metal vessels arranged with oysters and half-peeled lemons among other motifs.


Still-life showing a lobster, ‘circle of’ the Irish animal painter Charles Collins, £14,000 at Dreweatts.

The last of the still-life highlights to hit the auction block was a highly decorative 15 x 19in (40 x 50cm) oil on canvas showing a cooked lobster and shrimp on a ledge, catalogued as ‘circle of’ the Irish animal painter Charles Collins (1680-1744).

It sold to the UK trade at £14,000, nearly five times its top estimate.

A similar work by Collins, Lobster on a Delft Dish (1738), is in the Tate and noted for its simple and striking composition compared with the sumptuous displays of food and wine favoured by contemporary Netherlandish painters.

Portraits on offer

Pick of the portraits was a lady in Ottoman dress catalogued as ‘circle of’ Jean-Baptiste Vanmour (1671-1737), the Flemish-French painter remembered for his detailed portrayal of life in the Ottoman Empire during the prosperous Tulip Era between 1718-30.

The 3ft 5in x 2ft 9in (1.04m x 85cm) oil on canvas was knocked down at £21,500 to a private European buyer against a £4000- 6000 estimate.


Portrait of a lady by Tilly Kettle, £11,000 at Dreweatts.

Among only a handful of firm attributions was an 18th century portrait of an unidentified lady by London-born painter Tilly Kettle (1735-86). One of several works from the Wodehouse collection lent to the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1902, it nearly doubled hopes to sell for £11,000 to a private buyer based in the UK against a £4000-6000 estimate.

Kettle has the distinction of being one of the first prominent English artists to work in India, where he enjoyed considerable success painting portraits of British and Indian dignitaries and scenes of local life.

Some of the best examples from his period in India have sold for six figures at auction.

Be my Guest


Bearing the Dead Body of Patroclus to the Camp by Thomas Douglas Guest, £20,000 at Dreweatts.

Elsewhere in the Dreweatts sale a large history painting by Thomas Douglas Guest (1781-1845) depicting a scene from the death of Patroclus in Homer’s Iliad was knocked down to a private buyer in Europe for £20,000, nearly three times its top guide.

The 3ft 3in x 4ft 1in (1m x 1.25m) oil on canvas is one of Guest’s more important works, having been awarded the Gold Medal for it in the Royal Academy Schools in 1805. It had previously sold at Sotheby’s in November 1994 for £7200.


Oil of the mosque of Sultan Hassan in Cairo attributed to Edward Angelo Goodall, £16,000 at Dreweatts.

Forming part of a large consignment of traditional pictures owned by Northamptonshire dealer Windsor House Antiques was a rare oil attributed to Edward Angelo Goodall (1819-1908), who is better known for his Orientalist watercolours.

The 2ft 7in x 3ft 9in (78cm x 1.15m) oil on canvas, depicting the mosque of Sultan Hassan in Cairo, was knocked down to a European private buyer for £16,000 against its £2000-3000 estimate.

Goodall may have painted the work in c.1880 when he produced an identical watercolour of the mosque’s open courtyard, now in the collections at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Goodall’s depiction of the building, which by the 19th century had fallen into semi-decay, was described in The Art Journal in 1880 as “an immense interior peopled with worshippers, full of dust and heat, with sun rays striking through the lofty openings in the walls”.

Only two other pictures, both oils, by Goodall have made more at auction, according to

Olivier prized


In Freya Stark’s Garden, Asolo by Herbert Olivier, £9000 at Dreweatts.

Bids also emerged for a large collection of hitherto unseen works by Herbert Olivier (1861-1952), a Royal Academy-trained portrait and landscape painter who was also the uncle of Laurence Olivier.

The 39 lots, which had hung for over 100 years at the artist’s London home in Holland Park, largely got away within or slightly below pre-sale expectations although a few of the more expensive works failed to find buyers.

The group included a large 2ft 11in x 3ft 9in (89cm x 1.16m) oil on canvas depicting the Italian garden of the artist’s close friend, expat explorer and writer Freya Stark (1893-1993).

The summery scene, dated 1889 and showing a classical sculpture in the shade of trees and surrounded by purple irises, made the joint highest price of the group when it was knocked down within estimate for £9000 to a UK private buyer.