A Spy of the Christino Army brought before the Carlist General in Chief Zumalacarregui by John Frederick Lewis – £14,000 at Duke’s from the Moigne Combe country house sale.

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In particular, the fruitful period he spent in Spain during the early 1830s, during which he produced a great number of prints, drawings and paintings, earning him the nickname ‘Spanish Lewis’.

The artist also published two sets of lithographs, Sketches and Drawings of the Alhambra, made during a residence in Granada from 1833-34 and Sketches of Spain and Spanish Subjects in 1836.

A large watercolour from this period was included in the contents sale of Moigne Combe, a Dorset country house owned by successive generations of the Bond family and offered at Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) of Dorchester on April 10.

The 21in x 2ft 5in (53 x 74cm) watercolour depicts a scene from the First Carlist War, a seven-year Spanish civil war fought between two royal factions – the Carlists and the Cristinos – over succession to the Spanish throne. The war engulfed much of Spain but concentrated in the northern provinces of the Basque region.

In Lewis’ work, a spy is brought before Tomás de Zumalacárregui (1788-1835), a legendary Basque officer who led the Carlists. Not only is he considered one of Spain’s most notorious military figures, Zumalacárregui is also credited as the inventor of the famous Spanish omelette. (According to legend, he created the dish during the Siege of Bilbao in 1835 when, in search of nourishment for his troops, came across a poor housewife who had only eggs, onions and potatoes.)

The work was probably exhibited at the Old Watercolour Society in 1837 and subsequently engraved a year later, with examples in the collections at the British Museum and the V&A in London. Estimated at £3000-6000, it was secured at £14,000 by a phone bidder and underbid by a private collector based in the UK. The sum is one of the highest achieved for a Spanish period work by Lewis.

Family residence

Moigne Combe was designed in 1898 by Henry Pomeroy Bond – a member of the Bond family who have resided in Dorset since their purchase of Tyneham House in 1683.

The last member of the family to reside in Moigne Combe was the late Major-General Mark Bond (1922-2017), an aide de camp to Field Marshal Montgomery who had a distinguished military career.

Watercolours, portraits, landscapes and marine art, mostly dating between the 17th and 19th centuries from both British and overseas painters, made up the bulk of the pictures.

Noteworthy pictures

While the star of the £360,000 sale was undoubtedly the £120,000 George I walnut bookcase (see ATG No 2388), the picture section contained several noteworthy lots further down the price scale.

Family portraits relating to Daniel Giles (1725-1800), a former governor of the Bank of England, all found buyers at or slightly below expectations. A portrait of Giles himself ascribed to the successful London portraitist Thomas Hudson (1701-79) scraped away just below bottom estimate for £3800.


A portrait of Daniel Giles ascribed to the London portraitist Thomas Hudson – £4400.

A fetching oil portrait of his son, Daniel Giles (1760-1831), attracted greater competition. The 2ft 8in x 3ft 9in oil on canvas, also ascribed to Hudson, depicts the child sat on a carpet with a drum and a hat beside him. It found a buyer towards the upper guide at £4400.

Giles grew up to become a barrister and member of parliament. He was also an associate and business partner of John Julius Angerstein, whose collection of art galvanised the founding of the National Gallery.

Other picture lots of note included a large animal scene attributed to the Flemish painter Frans Snyders (1579-1657), which took £5400 against a £3000-6000 guide, and a small late marine painting of a fisherman unloading his catch by Thomas Luny (1759-1837) that sold against an attractive £500-1000 estimate for £2200.