The inscription in Gill’s famous typeface on the headstone states the grave commission was intended for an Alice Jameson. Executed in pencil and watercolour on 15 x 10in (38 x 26cm) paper, it came to auction with old gallery labels to the verso and annotated with the artist’s address at Pigotts in High Wycombe.
Offered for sale at Lacy Scott & Knight (20% buyer’s premium) in Bury St Edmunds on March 22, it sold for £7200 against a £1500-2500 estimate.
“According to the vendor this particular commission was never actually produced due to being unpopular with the establishment,” said Shaun Crichton of LSK. “There are a couple of other headstone designs which have been sold at Sotheby’s in recent years but nothing quite as bold and risky as this design.”
A pencil and crayon grave commission executed some 25 years earlier, and rather conservative by comparison, was left unsold against a punchy £6000-8000 estimate at Sotheby’s sale of the Felix Dennis collection in 2014.
Gill’s sexual depravity, which first came to light in Fiona MacCarthy’s 1989 biography, tarnished his reputation but seemingly not his auction prices, which have continued to rise.