A Family Gathering in a Highland Cottage by Thomas Faed – £8500 at Brightwells.

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Showing a Highland family crowded around a table in a humble cottage interior, concern etched on their faces, the 15 x 20in (38 x 51cm) oil on canvas was inscribed to the stretcher Reading the old Book. It came from a deceased estate in Herefordshire and was offered in a two-day sale in Leominster on July 25-26.

The picture’s compositional grouping of figures is similar to another painting by Faed in the collection at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery titled Sunday in the Backwoods.

Social realism

Like his close friend Charles Dickens, Faed’s work was deeply rooted in the social ills of the day, particularly the plight of the poor.

He developed his own style of social realism, covering themes such as destitution, homelessness, emigration and poverty, often with a strong emphasis on pathos. The state of poverty that led to emigration and the break-up of Highland families was a major subject for the artist.

While prices have tapered off with the wider fall in demand for Victorian genre scenes, Faed’s status as a leading proponent in the field means a decent level of appetite for his work endures.

At Skinner of Boston in 2016, a larger genre scene from an estate in south Florida that had hung in the Royal Academy in 1864 sold for a premium-inclusive $70,110, over 30 times its guide.