Coming up on Wednesday 14 December, we have our Old Master, British and European Art auction. The auction includes oil paintings and works on paper ranging from the 16th to the 19th century and we are delighted to have Desmond Shawe-Taylor select some of his personal highlights and to discuss their artistic merit.
Desmond was Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures from 2005 until his retirement in 2021; before this he was Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery. He is widely published and has been responsible for exhibitions in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Academy, and elsewhere.
Desmond Shawe-Taylor's Top Picks
Lot 29: Gottfried Libalt (German 1610-1673), Portrait of a man, aged 60, holding a book, Oil on canvas | Est. £4,000-6,000 (+ fees)
"This proud, quizzical old Hamburg merchant is a revelation, his features and hair freely painted in dry tendrils of paint. The influence probably comes from older Venetian masters, but there are echoes of Rembrandt’s contemporary work."
Lot 80: Aurelio Tiratelli (Italian 1842-1900), Cattle fair at Ostia, Oil on canvas | Est. £20,000-30,000 (+ fees)
"Intense sunshine is expressed through white light and primary colours. Tiratelli’s scene is packed with picturesque incidents, but life working the land appears as harsh as the fierce sunshine. This is not some operatic chorus."
Lot 82: Gustave Doré (French 1832-1883), Moses in the Bulrushes, Oil on canvas | Est. £15,000-20,000 (+ fees)
"This spin-off from Dore’s graphic work puts his oil paint technique to powerful effect – thick paint makes the reflection of the moonlight sparkle like silver, while the baby provides the only warm colour in the scene."
Lot 108: Gavin Hamilton (British 1723-1798), Diana and her Nymphs, Oil on canvas | Est. £25,000-35,000 (+ fees)
"This work is perhaps more significant than beguiling, but I enjoy the way every element is designed and polished, as if it should be turned into a tapestry."
Lot 157: Joseph Walter (British 1783-1856), A view of Pill on Avon with the Bristol Channel and the Welsh Hills in the distance, Oil on canvas | Est. £2,000-3,000 (+ fees)
"I like the way the artist here has used Turner’s technique (presumably derived from watercolour) of starting with white light and adding a minimum of colour or shadow as if hanging veils in front of the light."
Lot 161: Henry Wyatt (British 1794-1840), The Corsair, fire in his glance and wildness in his breast, oil on canvas | Est. £12,000-18,000 (+ fees)
"Reminiscent of Lawrence and Delacroix, this romantic figure belongs to the era when the French and English (and many other Europeans) surrendered to the spell of the sad and smouldering Lord Byron."
Lot 166: Alexandre Calame (Swiss 1810-1864), The Hasli, Canton of Berne, oil on canvas | Est. £20,000-30,000 (+ fees)
"Calame’s work has a beautiful, hard clarity, which I have always appreciated."
Lot 203: Benjamin Williams Leader (British 1831-1923), An English country churchyard, Oil on canvas | Est. £30,000-50,000 (+ fees)
"This is a very serious meditation on the passing of the day, on the end of summer and the contrast between heedless childhood and the grave."
Lot 248: Sir Alfred East (British 1849-1913), Gold, Oil on canvas | Est. £4,000-6,000 (+ fees)
"East is an artist who does nothing in particular and does it very well, as W. S. Gilbert might say. I love this unobtrusive gem - so beautifully observed and warmly painted."
Lot 275: Rosa Brett (British 1829-1882), Snipe at evening, oil on canvas, unframed | Est. £800-1,200 (+ fees)
"I was immediately struck by the insect-eye view here, the strange patterns of the reeds and the lurid sky. Rosa Brett is the sister of British artist John Brett, and depicts nice, plump snipe with a dash of that surreal fantasy you see in Victorian fairy painting."
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Wednesday 14 December | 10.30am GMT
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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Viewing in London (highlights only):
Dreweatts London, 16-17 Pall Mall, St James’s, London SW1Y 5LU
Monday 28 November: 10am-4pm
Tuesday 29 November: 10am-4pm
Wednesday 30 November: 10am-4pm
Viewing at Donnington Priory (full sale):
Dreweatts Newbury, Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
Sunday 11 December: 10am-3pm
Monday 12 December: 10am-4pm
Tuesday 13 December: 10am-4pm
Wednesday 14 December: from 8.30am
Remote viewing service | Available by appointment from Sunday 11 December
Dreweatts 360 Virtual Auction Tour | Available from Wednesday 30 November