Roses Thé by Henri Fantin-Latour, £190,000 at Dreweatts.

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Among the pictures making notable prices at regional auctions this spring, a number of works by European artists brought solid interest and sold for sums that did much to boost the bottom line at the respective salerooms.

The top-selling lot at Dreweatts(26/25% buyer’s premium) latest Modern and Contemporary art sale in Newbury was a trademark still life by Henri Fantin-Latour (1836- 1904) which fetched the highest price for a picture in the regions so far this year.

Titled Roses Thé, the 17¼ x 15½in (44 x 40cm) signed oil on canvas from 1874 had good provenance having been purchased by the vendor’s family from Glasgow dealer Reid & Lefevre some time ago. Its authenticity was confirmed by Paris gallery Brame & Lorenceau and it will be included in its forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings and pastels.

Works by the prolific artist, who has been described as the ‘19th century French flower painter par excellence’, regularly come up for sale in the UK - his paintings were enormously popular on this side of the Channel ever since he first visited England in 1859 and he was introduced to many British collectors by his friend and fellow artist James McNeill Whistler.

With the delicate handling and customary attention to detail, as well as the fact that roses appear to be a favoured subject, this picture ticked many of the boxes that buyers look for when it comes to Fantin-Latour.

It duly flew over its £50,000- 70,000 estimate at the auction on March 13 and was knocked down at £190,000 to an online buyer.

While the artist has certainly fetched more on numerous occasions (up to a record $3.2m/£2.21m for Bouquet de fleurs that sold at Christie New York in 2000), it appears to have fetched the highest price for the artist at a UK auction outside London.

Preyer time


Still-life by Emilie Preyer, £13,000 at Tennants.

Meanwhile, in North Yorkshire a few days later, a string of works by European artists brought interest from Continental buyers at Tennants (24% buyer’s premium) in Leyburn on March 16. Among them was a vintage still-life by Emilie Preyer (1849-1930).

The German painter, who was taught by her father Johann Wilhelm Preyer (1803-89) and was inspired by Dutch Old Masters such as Balthasar van der Ast (1590-1656), remains admired for the realism, elegance of composition and vibrant colours present in her works.

The signed oil on canvas here featured a peach, black grapes and cobnuts as well as a typically detailed depiction of an insect, in this case a fly shown to the foreground on the marble ledge.

The fact that many of Preyer’s works were relatively similar means buyers can be selective and this partly explains why prices tend to cover a fairly broad range at auction (from a few thousand pounds up to £50,000 for the most sought-after pictures in her oeuvre).

While the artist often painted on a small scale, this work was smaller than most that emerge, measuring just 6 x 7½in (15 x 19cm). It was in fair condition although it suffered from some small scratches and losses and had some minor retouching in places.

Estimated at £10,000-15,000, it nevertheless attracted a number of European bidders, selling to one of them at £13,000 - a mid-range sum for the artist but making a useful contribution to the overall £285,160 total from 178 lots in Leyburn.


Sheep and lambs in a stable by Eugene Verboeckhoven, £7000 at Tennants.

Another lot bringing bidding from Europe was farm scene by Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven (1799- 1881). The Belgian artist was also taught by his father (Bartholomew Verboeckhoven) and produced a large volume of Romantic pictures of animals with goats and sheep featuring prominently in his oeuvre.

While large depictions of flocks in an atmospheric landscape tend to be his most sought-after works and can make strong five-figure sums at auction, this was a slightly smaller picture of sheep, lambs and poultry inside a stable (although an extensive landscape was visible through the opening).

The 2ft 2in 21½in (67 x 54.5cm) signed oil on canvas was dated 1878 and had provenance to Dutton Manor, Lancashire. It was in original condition with only some slight abrasion, cracks to the sky and yellowed varnish.

Pitched at £1200-1800, it drew good bidding before it was knocked down at £7000 to a UK buyer who saw off the European interest.


Rocher Corneillee, Le Puy by Adolphe Valette, £9000 at Tennants.

Elsewhere at Tennants, three works by Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876-1942) met more of a mixed reaction.

The French artist spent most of his career in the north of England and is best remembered today as being the influential tutor of LS Lowry.

Offered separately, the three pictures all had provenance to the Perera collection - a group of works assembled from 1967-83 by a Portsmouth-based couple who amassed the largest holdings of Valette pictures in private hands. Much of the collection was dispersed in two Christie’s sales in 1987 and 1991.

Here in Leyburn, a beach scene sold on low estimate at £8000 while a self-portrait oil on board dated 1922 was unsold against a £8000- 12,000 pitch. But a significantly better reaction came for a view of the town of Le Puy in southern France with the huge Rocher Corneille (a 132m-high rock) visible in the background.

Signed and dated ‘1925, the Pereras had purchased the 12¼ x 16in (31 x 41cm) oil on board from Andrée Valette (the artist’s wife) and it had since featured in an exhibition of their collection at Portsmouth City Museum in 1983.

Estimated at £5000-8000, it sold at £9000 - among the highest prices for the artist at auction in the last two years.


Still life with canisters by Henk Helmantel, £15,000 at Tennants.

While works by Valette are not uncommon at an auction in the north of England, a more unusual offering at Tennants was a picture by Dutch painter Henk Helmantel (b.1945).

Still life with canisters, a 19¾in x 2ft 3in (50 x 69cm) signed oil on masonite from 2008, was a trademark example of his contemporary realist technique and was again a work that ticked the right boxes in terms of what buyers look for, in this case simple objects set against a plain background and with serene lighting.

While Helmantel’s larger works can make £20,000-plus at auction, this one performed well against a £8000-12,000 estimate as it drew European bidding and was carried to a final £15,000.

Aside from two still-lifes that sold in the same saleroom in 2015 for £26,000 and £19,000 respectively, this was seemingly the highest price for the artist at an auction in the UK outside London.

Duomo to doorways


View of Florence by Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont, £25,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

A couple of European pictures also caught the eye at Woolley & Wallis (26% buyer’s premium) on March 6.

These included a fine view of Florence with the Duomo in the distance that set an auction record for the French landscape painter Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont (1790-1870) according to

The artist studied under Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, who taught drawing to young women in his studio at a time when women were barred from studying at the École des Beaux-Arts. Sarazin de Belmont travelled widely and most of her paintings depicted locations she observed, in particular views around France and Italy.

The latter, which included pictures of Rome, Naples and Sicily, are particularly common in her later period as she lived in Italy from 1841- 65. The painting in the Salisbury sale, however, dated from slightly earlier: the 21½in x 2ft 8in (55 x 81cm) oil on canvas was signed and dated 1839.

It was given a £4000-6000 estimate. Although it is not unknown for panoramas by the artist to sell at this kind of the level, the subject and atmosphere of the Florence picture ensured a lively contest and, on the day, it received strong interest and was knocked down at £25,000.

A cheaper 'Hammershøi'


Interior with a Chinese porcelain figure on a table by Carl Vilhelm Holsøe, £16,500 at Woolley & Wallis.

Bidders also reacted well to a classic interior scene by Danish artist Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935). A friend of Vilhelm Hammershøi, he painted still-lifes and landscapes but also interiors that were very much akin to his better-known (and now much higher-selling) contemporary.

The 12¾ x 11¾in (32 x 30cm) signed oil on canvas at Woolley & Wallis was one such example with the open doorway and arrangement of objects creating a composed silence and the light-sourcing elegantly handled.

It had previously sold at Copenhagen saleroom Kunsthallen in 1991 for the equivalent of £4230. Here in Salisbury it was estimated at £4000-6000 but with the market having expanded significantly since then, a bid of £16,500 was required.

To some minds the sum still seemed good value. After all, if you haven’t got a spare million to afford a Hammershøi, Holsøe looks a good bet.