On March 9th, Bonhams, London, presented their British and European Painting sale — a selection of more affordable 19th and 20th-century paintings – you know, works carrying estimates like £800-1.2K, £2-3K, and £10-15K. It was a bit of a mixed bag with oils, watercolors, and drawings. (Unless otherwise noted, all prices are hammer price –w/p – with the buyer’s premium)
The top lot of the session was Josef Oppenheimer’s The Tennis Match. This small (9 5/8 x 13 ¼ inch) impressionist work was expected to sell in the £5-7K range and hammered for £32K/$42K (£40.3K/$53K w/p). So, we can all agree that it performed well. Next came Ernest Croft’s Funeral of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria. When I first saw the image, I wondered if anyone would be interested in purchasing a painting of a funeral procession? Obviously, someone was willing to spend £17K/$22K (£21.5/$28K w/p – est. £12-18K). It shows you what I know! In the number three spot, we find Charles Burton Barber’s The Lamb with the Lion at £14K/$18.4K (£17.8/$23.3K w/p – est. £10-15k). Rounding out the top five there was a tie: F.M. Bennett’s A Hearty Lunch (est. £6-8K) and Ernest Pierre Guérin’s Jour de fête à Notre Dame de la Joie (est. £5-7K) both hammered at £12K/$15.7K (£15.3/$20K w/p).
Several lots also performed well in the British and European Painting sale; these included works by Marianne Stokes (£8K – est. £2-3K), Edgar Maxence (£7K – est. £2-3K), Jerzy Kossak (£5.5K – est. £1-1.5K), Clare Atwood (£4K – est. £1.5-2K), Dame Laura Knight (£3.5K – est. £1-1.5K), and Walter Williams (£2.5 – est. £800-1.2K). Then some did not do well or were withdrawn (usually because there was no presale interest). Among them were works by Munnings (£1.5-2K – withdrawn), Raphael Lewisohn (£4-6K – unsold), Pierre Outin (£3-5K – withdrawn), Vincenzo Irolli (£8-12K – unsold), and Antonio Mancini (£20-30K – withdrawn).
I will say that the sale moved along pretty quickly, and by the time it finished, of the 207 lots in the ‘catalog’, seven were withdrawn. Of the remaining 200, 155 were sold (77.5% sell-through rate – which is pretty good), and the total take was £460K. The presale estimate range was £450-660K, so they just hit it. Looking a bit closer, we find that 32 sold below, 67 within, and 56 above their estimates; this left them with an accuracy rate of 33.5% — which is very respectable.
While this British and European Painting sale did not feature any expensive 19th-century works of art, it is an excellent example of what can happen when the estimates align with the works’ quality, condition, and level of importance. In the 19th century arena, anything above a 75% sell-through rate is considered very good.