The Economist reports on the Victorian and Edwardian art sales in London last week with these interesting datapoints. The first is the growing trend for the bulk of a sales value to be carried by a few pictures with the rest selling for small sums or not selling at all. Christie’s sold £3,428,725; Sotheby’s sold £4,366,475. The Economist explains:
Nearly 40% of the lots in Sotheby’s sale were bought in. Its success lay in the high prices achieved for those that sold, half of which were bid up beyond their high estimate. Some pieces went for as much as four times what the auction house had predicted. […]
Spencelayh, the son of an iron and brass founder, rose to be a prolific member of the Royal Academy of Arts and a favourite of Queen Mary. His work is, if anything, even more unfashionable-looking than Grimshaw’s. Spencelayh, who died in 1928, liked to paint fussy interiors. The most sought after are realistic pictures of men, often gathered around a table in a room full of clutter, with glazed jugs, books, umbrellas and pieces of velvet jumbled together. There is usually a pipe or two on the table, and there is nearly always a clock hanging on the wall.
A Manchester cotton merchant named Levy supported Spencelayh from the early 1920s. He offered the artist and his wife a house to live in and bought a number of his paintings. When Levy’s widow, Rosie, auctioned his collection in 1946, the picture that fetched the highest sum was “The Old Dealer”, which Spencelayh had painted in 1925. It was sold again in 1973, where it was bought by Richard Green, a London dealer, on behalf of an American collector for about £30,000.
Consigned last week to Sotheby’s by this same collector, it sold for more than ten times that (£337,250 including commission and taxes) to Mr Mason.
Back to the Future (The Economist)