Pair of Old Masters sets new picture high for Woolley & Wallis

A pair of Old Testament scenes attributed to Jacopo Amigoni sold for £260,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

A spectacular competition came at Woolley & Wallis’ latest picture sale as 12 bidders pursued a pair of Italian Old Masters which the auction house had spotted tucked away in a dark corner of the vendor’s top landing.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Alex Capon

The two paintings both had a dirty discoloured varnish but, although they were unsigned, Woolley’s head of paintings Victor Fauvelle and specialist Ed Beer felt their quality was immediately obvious when seen in the light.

Notable source

The 12¾ x 21¼in (32.5 x 54cm) oil on coppers came from a notable source, having entered a private collection in Oxfordshire via descent from the Houston-Boswall baronets.

They depicted Old Testament scenes – Laban searching for his idols and the finding of Moses – and had old attribution on the frames indicating they were after Francesco Zuccarelli (1702-88).

The auctioneers, however, felt the label was erroneous and that fellow late-Baroque Italian painter Jacopo Amigoni (1682-1752) was more likely. After spotting how one of the works related closely to an old engraving after the ‘Laban’ work, it was offered at the auction in Salisbury on March 4 as ‘attributed to Amigoni’ and estimated at £8000-12,000.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With the copper panels believed to date from 1730-39, a period when Amigoni was working in England and carrying out commissions at Moor Park and Wolterton Hall, and in good underlying condition (the auctioneers said they should clean beautifully), they drew interested parties from the UK, Europe and the US.

They were eventually knocked down at £260,000 to an Italian buyer on the phone.

The price was the highest for a picture lot at the Salisbury auction house, exceeding the £200,000 for an Alfred Munnings hunting scene set in 2014.

‘Ticked a lot of boxes’

Fauvelle said: “True pairs of paintings of this period are not common. I think they just ticked a lot of boxes for collectors, and we’re delighted for our vendor that they have proved so popular.”

He added: “These paintings are a quarter of the size of those [by Amigoni] that have fetched upwards of £200,000 elsewhere, and the price is certainly in the top 10% for this artist.

The price was the highest for a picture lot at the Salisbury auction house, exceeding the £200,000 for an Alfred Munnings hunting scene set in 2014.

The Houstoun-Boswall collection provided 14 works for the sale, including a Robert Adam (1728-1792) design for the family’s former seat of Blackadder House Berwickshire that sold for £2600.

A further report of the sale will appear in a future issue.

The buyer’s premium was 25%.