Summertime, and the auction houses are packing up for the hols - except Christie's South Kensington and Bonhams Chelsea, which make a point of soldiering on.
Attending a summer picture auction such as Christie's South Kensington's sale of British and continental pictures, Thursday (10.30am), can be an eerie experience. The regular dealers are missing but there are new faces, some a little pimply, who have been assigned spending limits on specific lots by their bosses, shortly before they took their Purdeys to Scotland.
Then there are the tourists, Europeans and Americans, some on organised tours. First the V&A, they have been promised, then the cut and thrust of the saleroom. Some gawp. Others reach for their wallets. There are, after all, paintings to be had for under pounds 100.
Since the tourists and dealers' juniors have no other general picture sale to go to, the result is quite a throng. Last August's picture sale at South Ken sold 87 per cent by value - about the same as its peak-season sale in June.
There are no big-name artists. It is a case of knowing what you like. The fluid brush of one AW Radgate has produced a mellow pastoral with vivid greens of cattle grazing. No matter who he was, South Ken's auctioneers have estimated it on merit at pounds 600-pounds 800. Who knows, perhaps no one else will fancy it.
The sale offers decorative, non-intrusive art for the home. A 24in x 36in canvas by William Watson shows a brightly-lit scene of horses and cart on a beach with a ghostly beached hulk in the background: realistically est at pounds 800-pounds 1,200. Or what about a pair of 18th-century half-length portraits, probably man and wife? Painted with flair, they are catalogued as "circle of" Enoch Seeman, the immigrant artist from Danzig. Closer than "circle of", perhaps? An est of pounds 400-pounds 600 says not. If you know better, bid.
Bonhams' marine sale offers, besides two Montague Dawson seascapes at pounds 12,000-pounds 18,000 and pounds 18,000-pounds 25,000, a meticulous "sailor's model" of a 1780 East Indiaman - that means a model scratch-built by an amateur. Despite the derogatory tag, such models are often expertly made, the estimates bearing no relation to the time spent on them - sometimes 3,000 hours or more. The sale catalogue names the maker of this one as "Mr M Saville-Swithin", and says he designed the hull from drafts in the National Maritime Museum and from paintings by Luny and Clevely. The rigging was taken from the sourcebook, Lee's Mating and Rigging. Est: pounds 1,500- pounds 2,000. The sale is on Thursday (11am) and not as stated in error in last week's column.
Two watercolours thought to have been painted by a member of the 1850 American relief expedition sent in search of the Franklin Expedition, lost while seeking a North-west Passage, are est pounds 200-pounds 400 the pair in the same sale. One shows the rescue ships Advance and Rescue, the other the graves of two members of the Franklin expedition.
Bonhams' two-part sporting sale concludes with guns, Tuesday (11am). Old gunshop displays are popular: a glass case containing an array of Nobel's cartridge dummies is est pounds 250-pounds 350, and a flaking Canada goose on a wooden base advertising Kynoch's cartridges is pounds 500-pounds 800.
For countrywide auctions and fairs, see page 15
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