Portrait of Admiral Boscawen by Allan Ramsay, £30,000 at Dreweatts.

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Although the potential best-seller at the January 31 auction in Newbury, a Francis Cotes (1726-70) portrait of Mrs William Colhoun of Wretham, was unsold against a £60,000-100,000 estimate, a work by Allan Ramsay (1713-84) from the other source ended up leading the pictures on offer.

It came as part of a ‘long hidden family collection’ comprising 176 lots which had been removed from a Georgian townhouse in Wimpole Street in Marylebone, London.

The consignment also provided the set of six George III giltwood side chairs made by Thomas Chippendale for Brocket Hall that sold for £95,000 (see Front page and Pick of the week, ATG No 2629).

Indeed, many of the works were originally aristocratic commissions.

The Ramsay portrait depicting the naval hero Admiral Boscawen (pictured top) was painted for the 5th Duke of Beaufort.

The 2ft 9in x 2ft 1in (85 x 62cm) oil on canvas from 1758 had been kept at Badminton House until it was sold at Sotheby’s in 1992. A full-length version, which includes a French flag and maritime fortifications in the background, was also commissioned by the family and kept at Badminton House.

The catalogue stated how the ‘elegant portrait possesses all of the grace and naturalness of Ramsay’s work, employing many of the distinctive techniques he had developed over his career’ including the use of short feathery brushstrokes concentrated in the lighter areas.

In terms of the condition, the painting had certainly had some retouching although its extent was difficult to assess due to a thick varnish.

Nevertheless, the £15,000-25,000 estimate did not seem excessive to a number of parties who considered it decent value for a work by the leading Scottish portraitist depicting an important naval figure who became Lord of the Admiralty.

It sold at £30,000 - a solid sum for a portrait of a male figure in this kind of condition.

Man’s best friend


Portrait of a gentleman with a dog by Nicolaes Maes, £28,000 at Dreweatts.

The other collection featured at the auction was the 149 lots from Cairness House, a Neo-classical estate in Aberdeenshire which was purchased in 2000 by the vendors who undertook an immense restoration project.

As well as providing the Francis Cotes that was unsold, the consignment included a portrait of a gentleman with a dog by Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes (1634-93).

Like many of Maes’ portraits, the 3ft 5in x 2ft 7in (1.04m x 78cm) oil on canvas probably depicted a member of the Amsterdam political and mercantile elite. It shows the figure in one of the artist’s preferred poses, leaning against a tree and holding a bow in his right hand with his mastiff at his feet.

Again, it had heavy varnish (as well as a repaired tear) but attracted interest against a £10,000-15,000 pitch, selling at £28,000.