Samuel Palmer’s Romantic era work comes from the decade he spent in Shoreham–the peak of his career–and it is highly prized for its condition, composition and size. Christie’s specialist, James Hastie, discusses the appeal of Palmer and his work in this brief video:
The final piece of the Palmer value comes from its long provenance. The work was held for a hundred years within one family and has since only exchanged hands once through the London dealer Agnews:
In later life Palmer abandoned his Shoreham manner, producing watercolors that were more to the taste of the time. But he retained an affection for his early work and was still able to sell some of it to discerning admirers. Principal amongst these was his cousin John Giles. In 1874 Giles, a stockbroker, bought this work and gave it to his junior partner, J.W. Overbury, as a wedding present. The provenance is confirmed by a note in the inventory of J.W. Overbury: ‘bought off the artist by Mr Giles who gave it to me in 1874 as a wedding present’.10 This is reinforced by what can be read of the inscription, presumably by J.W. Overbury, on one of the labels on the back of the panel: ‘Samuel Palmer …the artist by Mr Giles… …me for the wedding present’. The other label reads, ‘The Sleeping Shepherd by Samuel Palmer/belonging to Mr Overbury’. Overbury himself became an enthusiast for Palmer’s work and bought several other works, including the fine early set of Sepias now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The Sleeping Shepherd remained in the possession of the Overbury family until 1987.