On June 3rd, Bonhams presented their mid-market 19th-century sale in London (it was initially scheduled to take place on April 8th). With all that is currently going on in the world, 15 works (or about 15% of the lots) were withdrawn. A couple of them were due to authenticity issues, and most of the others were more than likely due to sellers not willing to take the risk … and some of those lots were among the more expensive works (they included three paintings by Ludwig Deutsch with a combined estimate of £330-500K). Unless otherwise noted, prices shown are the hammer price (w/p = with the buyer’s premium, est. = presale estimate).
Taking the top slot was John Emms’ The Bitch Pack of the Meath Foxhounds that carried a £180-250K estimate and sold for £180K (£225K/$283K w/p). Sadly, for the owner, that was a significant loss since they purchased the work from Bonhams in 2010 for $482K. Coming in second, was a drawing by Burne-Jones – Study for an Untold Dream – that made £55K (£69K/$86K w/p; est. £25-35K); and in third was a loose study/sketch for the central figure in Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, that made £50K (£63K/$78K w/p; est. £50-70K). Rounding out the top five were Carl Holsoe’s Interior with Cello and Woman Reading – £48K (£60K/$75K w/p – est. £15-20K), and Soulacroix’s Reverie at £42K (£53K/$66K w/p; est. £20-30K).
You may have noted that a few of the works listed above performed well (based on their estimates), and they were not the only ones. A small Koekkoek landscape brought £28K (£35K/$44K – est. £12-18K); a Louis Grimshaw (Atkinson’s son) made an impressive £38K (£48K/$60K – est. £6-8K); and Frank Brownell’s Sewing Under the Trees brought £36K (£45K/$57K – est. £8-12K). I am sure all those sellers were pretty happy.
As we always see with these sales, several pricier works failed to find buyers; among them were paintings by Burton Barber (£120-180K); Munnings (£100-150K); Madrazo y Garretta (£40-60K); Forbes (£40-60K); and van Schendel (£30-50K). I think the estimates were just a bit too high for these paintings.
When the session was over, of the 87 works offered, 62 sold (75.6%), and the total take was £1.13M/$1.42M. The low end of their estimate range was £1.44M, so they fell a bit short. On the bright side, of the 87 works, 9 were below, 31 within, and 22 above their presale estimate ranges (the other 25 did not sell); this left them with an accuracy rate of 35.6%, which is a pretty good number, and just over 25% of the works beat their estimate ranges.
The takeaway from this is that there is still plenty of interest in the 19th-century arena. If the works offered are fresh, excellent quality, and in beautiful condition, there is a good chance they will perform well, even in these difficult times. Having said that, there were a few sold lots that appeared to be less than stellar (pieces I would have bet would not sell). Guess this pandemic has benefited some sellers since right now, most buyers do not have an opportunity to examine a work physically.