LONDON - The undoubted highlight of tonight’s Evening Sale of Old Master & British Paintings at Sotheby’s in London was George Stubbs's Brood Mares and Foals, one of the British master’s most ambitious and successful works and arguably his finest painting ever to come to the market. The painting, which made its first ever appearance on the open market tonight, sold for £10,121,250 / $15,906,556 / ˆ12,096,885, a price which represents a new auction record for a work by the British master, by a wide margin. (The previous auction record for a work by George Stubbs was £3,191,500 / $5,079,579 and this was set by his Portrait of The Royal Tiger, which sold in June 1995).
Brood Mares and Foals was the top-selling lot in a lively sale which brought an overall total of £23,577,600 /$37,054,556 / ˆ28,179,870 (the pre-sale total estimate was £20,360,000-30,030,000) and which achieved sell through rates of 73% by lot and 93% by value. Six new auction record prices were achieved in total, for works by: George Stubbs, Luis de Morales, Goswijn Van Der Weyden, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, Lorenzo Pasinelli and Emanuel de Witte. A number of other works also sold particularly well, namely those by Canaletto and the Monogrammist IS.
Buyers came from all over the world tonight, including Asia. A breakdown by lot as follows:
Rest of Europe: 40%
Rest of World: 3%
Talking about the record-breaking price achieved tonight for the Stubbs, Emmeline Hallmark, Director and Head of British Paintings at Sotheby’s, commented: “George Stubbs is, in my opinion, the greatest horse painter of all time and it is fitting that this work - instantly recognisable as one of his most beautiful and iconic compositions - should achieve a world record price at auction for the artist. It has been an immense pleasure to present for sale a work of such magnetism.”
Discussing the results of this evening overall, Alex Bell, International Department Head and Co-Chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide, commented: “We are very pleased with the results achieved for tonight’s sale which established very healthy sell-through rates by lot and value, and some extremely strong prices for material that was fresh to the market. The broad geographical spread of activity overall, including buyers from Asia, demonstrates the growing international appeal of this market. We were delighted with the sum achieved for the works from the Estate of the 7th Earl of Clarendon, which performed exceptionally well and were led by 'Madonna & Child', a superb and tender painting by one of Spain's great painters Luis de Morales."
George Stubbs’s Brood Mares and Foals:
Prior to this evening’s sale, Brood Mares and Foals had remained in the same family collection ever since it was painted in 1768, at the pinnacle of George Stubbs’s career, and was presented for sale for the first time tonight by the incumbent Earl of Macclesfield. The painting is a superlative example of the artist’s talents as both a horse and landscape artist.
The painting was probably commissioned by Colonel George Lane Parker, the second son of George Parker - the second Earl of Macclesfield of Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire - and an important owner of Stubbs’s work. It then passed to Thomas Parker, the third Earl of Macclesfield, whose descendant presented it for sale. Stubbs produced the distinctive group of compositions of mares and foals exclusively for his most important patrons during the 1760s.
Property from the Estate of the 7th Earl of Clarendon:
The Clarendon works presented for sale brought an overall total of £2,675,850 / $4,205,365, well above the pre-sale expectations of £1,120,000-1,640,000.
• The star of the group was a sublime and wonderfully intact Madonna and child by Luis de Morales, which clearly appealed to collectors and was the subject of intense competition. It sold for £1,609,250 / $2,529,097 – over four times the pre-sale expectations of £250,000-350,000 and a new record for the artist at auction. Known as the Virgén del sombrero - on account of the wide, brown-lilac plaited hat that the Madonna wears on her head – the panel was a notable addition to the oeuvre of Morales, who was perhaps the greatest Spanish devotional painter of the 16th century.
• The two striking portraits by Sir Anthony van Dyck also performed well. The first, a depiction of Sir John Mennes, a leading Royalist commander and an experienced sailor, made £690,850 / $1,085,740 and the second, portraying George, Baron Goring - one of Charles I’s most prominent and talented cavalry commanders - brought £241,250 / $379,148.
• The collection was principally put together by Edward Hyde, the 1st Lord Clarendon (1609-1674) – who had an enormous passion for collecting – and then by his descendant George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), who was appointed ambassador to Madrid at the age of 33 and spent six years in the city, where he developed a particular interest in Spanish paintings.
Other notable highlights of the evening:
• A new record was set for a work by Goswijn Van Der Weyden with the sale of Seven Scenes from the Life and Veneration of Saint Dymphna, a set of seven oak panels depicting the life and veneration of Saint Dymphna, for £1,161,250 / $1,825,020, eclipsing the last record set by same work when previously sold at Sotheby’s London in 2001 for £773,500.
• A Portrait of an Elderly Woman, Looking Left by the Monogrammist IS saw fierce competition and soared above its estimate of £30,000-50,000 to sell for £577,250 – ten times the high estimate.
• The large, sun-bathed Venetian view by Canaletto sold for £2,225,250 / $3,497,203. Dating to the 1730s, the highpoint of Canaletto’s production, the painting last sold at Sotheby’s in 2006 when it realised a price of £1,329,600.
• At the end of an exceptional year for British pictures at Sotheby’s ***, strong prices for British paintings were again notable in tonight’s sale. Aside from the Stubbs and the Van Dycks mentioned above, Johann Zoffany’s impressive portrait of Claud Alexander sold for £769,250 / $1,208,953 and George Stubbs’ Portrait of Viscount Gormanston’s White Dog – from the collection of the 20th-century press baron and business tycoon, Lord Beaverbrook - sold for £361,250 / $567,740.