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Art market

FOR over half a century, the eminent theatrical impresario Sir Michael Codron filled his compact London apartment with a lively array of furniture and pictures.

Alongside producing some 130 West End plays, among them his early productions of the works of Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter and David Hare, Codron found time to peruse the galleries of London dealers, acquiring much of his flat’s contents from the trade.

When Codron decided to move, he consigned the furnishings to Woolley & Wallis’ (22/12% buyer’s premium) furniture, works of art and clocks sale, held on January 11 in Salisbury. Nearly half the collection were pictures – an eclectic mix of Neapolitan School gouaches, folk art and large decorative portraits.

Though a little shabby in places, the collection appealed to today’s interior tastes, with the bonus of being assembled by a collector with a good eye and a known name. A mix of trade buyers restocking after Christmas, interior decorators and private home furnishers absorbed all bar two pictures to the tune of £51,370.

Half of this sum came from a striking ‘English School’ satirical oil of Robert Knight (1675-1744), discussed and pictured in ATG No 2275, which sold for almost five times the top estimate at £24,000 to Sutton Coldfield dealership Thomas Coulborn & Sons.

In all, the collection helped W&W to post its highest total for a sale in this category in more than 15 years. Among the other highlights was a large and appealing family portrait from c.1740. Both the artist and sitters of this ‘slightly provincial Hogarthian group’ were unidentified, but a distinctive landscape in the distance linked it to the North Netherlands School.

Measuring 3ft 11in x 5ft 1in (1.2 x 1.55m), the oil on canvas sold to an interior decorator/dealer bidding on the phone for £5200 against a £2000-3000 estimate.

There was a good result on a slightly dog-eared but charming pair of 18th century English School folk art portraits. Depicting James and Ann Portbury, the 17 x 12in (43 x 31cm) works had suffered some undulating damp and staining, but came in attractive moulded giltwood frames and bore labels for the Rutland Gallery in Oakham. After eager bidding, they sold back to the trade at £1000 against a £250-350 estimate.

By contrast, a traditional double portrait of a gentleman in red suit and his daughter starred among a clutch of large and decorative Old Masters. Attributed to Flemish artist Joseph Van Aken (c.1699-1749), this 5ft 4in x 3ft 8in (1.62 x 1.14m) oil on canvas was pursued just above the guide to sell to a private buyer at £4400.

The pick of the landscapes was a 2ft 11in x 3ft 9in (90cm x 1.14m) oil on canvas of George Watson’s Hospital in Edinburgh painted in the style of Balthazar Nebost (fl.1730-70).

The artist is best known for his charming and somewhat naïve views of famous buildings such as Hartwell House, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

Purchased from Alistair Sampson Antiques, this work was originally misidentified as Holyrood House in Edinburgh. It sold on top estimate at £3000 to a Scottish buyer.