Son of a slave paints saintly image

'Saint Germain' by Jose Campeche y Jordán – £95,000 at Bonhams.

While the vast majority of works at Old Master sales are by European artists, an unusual offering at Bonhams’ sale on July 3 was a Latin American work by a painter with Afro-Caribbean ancestry.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Alex Capon

‘Saint Germain’ by Jose Campeche y Jordán – £95,000 at Bonhams.

Saint Germain, a 23½ x 18in (59 x 46cm) oil on canvas by Jose Campeche y Jordán (1751-1809), was estimated at £10,000-15,000 but drew strong bidding before it was knocked down at £95,000.

Works by the artist are elusive and only 10 have sold at auction before, almost all of them in the US, according to Art Sales Index.

The highest recorded price is $260,000 (£172,585) for a picture of a lady on horseback sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1994.

Puerto Rican pioneer

Regarded as the earliest Puerto Rican visual artist, Campeche was the son of a slave who earned his freedom by carving altarpieces and later became a restorer and painter of religious statues.

Campeche worked as decorator and gilder but is believed to have trained as an artist under Luis Paret y Alcázar, the Spanish court painter who was banished to Puerto Rico from 1775-8.

This painting, executed in the high Rococo style, had its authenticity confirmed by Madrid art historian Jose Antonio Camara not long before the auction.

Another religious painting at Bonhams that drew significant interest was a depiction of The Adoration of the Shepherds catalogued as by the workshop of Francesco Giambattista da Ponte, called Francesco Bassano (1549-92).

Estimated at £5000-7000, bidders responded well to the ‘here-to-be-sold’ pitch and it was knocked down at £110,000 – the highest individual price at Bonhams’ 60-lot sale that generated a hammer total of £968,700.