The Airport Committee of Manchester City Council commissioned Elisabeth Frink (1930-93) to make the piece which she completed in 1962, titled Horizontal Birdman.
The sculpture belongs to Frink’s so-called ‘Birdman Bronzes’, a series believed to have been inspired by the real-life birdman, Léo Valentin, who tried to fly with wings. Valentin fell to his death in a failed stunt at an air show in Liverpool in 1956. The photos of the accident were published in the press and resonated with Frink, who had a deep fear of heights.
The bronze maquette was made in an edition of nine as part of the Manchester commission. The 16in (40cm) long piece, signed and numbered Frink/7/9, was consigned to Duke’s Fine Art sale in Dorchester on April 26 with provenance to London gallery Beaux Arts.
This was the second attempt to sell it at auction. The private vendor had consigned it to Bonhams where it failed to get away against a punchy £30,000- 50,000 guide last November.
Entered into the sale at Duke’s with a more modest £8000-12,000 estimate, it sold against underbidding on the internet to a commission bidder for £15,500. This is in line with another maquette from the same edition that sold at Bonhams in November 2011 for £18,750 (with fees).
Elsewhere in the sale a market scene painted in Concarneau, Brittany, by Terrick Williams (1860-1935) sold for £5500, while a 17th century English School portrait, purporting to show Sir Walter Raleigh, tipped over top estimate to sell for £7000.