JMW Turner drawing

Catalogued as an engraving, bidders believed this picture to be an original JMW Turner drawing for a print in Scott’s Essays.

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Lot 3078 at the four-day sale held in Etwall, Derbyshire, on January 18-23 was a group of two pictures, one described as a David Cox watercolour and the other catalogued as ‘an engraving of Shakespeare’s Monument, Stratford on Avon, by J Horsburgh’. Both works had labels on the back for Agnews and Sons, Manchester.

The works came from a Nottinghamshire vendor who had inherited them along with many other items from his mother 27 years ago. Now downsizing, he took the works to Hansons’ office in Southwell for valuation.

The lot was estimated at £80-100 but, with three bidders in contention (two of whom were dealers), the bidding quickly rose to £10,000 before an intense competition took the price up further.

The gavel eventually fell at £14,000 with the buyer being a private UK purchaser, according to Hansons.

Among the underbidders was Simon Lamb of The Swan Gallery in Sherborne, Dorset, who told ATG that the main attraction of the lot was the ‘engraving’.

'Original Turner drawing'

“It’s actually the original Turner drawing for a print in Scott’s Essays”, he said. “The titling on the back gives a date of c.1832… If you’re familiar with his miniature watercolours, it was obvious at first glance what it was.”

JMW Turner (1775-1851) produced a series of vignettes for the Cadell editions of Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works (1833-34) and Prose Works (1834-36) which were engraved by Edinburgh draughtsman John Horsburgh (1791-1869).

The image of Shakespeare’s Monument in the Holy Trinity Church in the Bard’s hometown, showing four women standing by the entrance, appears as one of seven plates after Turner in the latter edition (it is the vignette for volume VI).

The emergence of an original Turner sketch such as this would certainly be a notable and potentially valuable find. Lamb said: “I hoped I was the only one to spot this… but, alas, not this time!”