Rivet wrote at the time: “We are in Milan, where at last we have unpacked and put to use our colour boxes …I think that if Bonington can produce the paintings he has sketched his reputation will be made.”
Among the works he was probably referring to was an oil sketch of the interior of the medieval basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, a work now in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
While Parkes Bonington also completed a highly finished watercolour based on this sketch as well as a larger oil painting of the subject (now lost), he made a second but smaller sketch of the cathedral’s Gothic interior, though with differences in the positioning of the figures.
This latter sketch remained in his possession and sold in his studio sale following his untimely death of tuberculosis aged 25.
Over the years that sketch passed through the London dealership Arthur Tooth and Sons and also Christie’s, where it sold for £1700 in June 1977.
Offered in Essex
Its latest appearance on the market was at Sworders on December 8-9 where it came from the same source that supplied the £70,000 John Constable and was estimated at £3000-5000.
The 6¾ x 8¾in (17 x 21cm) oil on paper was laid on card and mounted onto a small panel. There was old tear to one corner and an area of darkened overpaint but the majority of the work was in original and stable condition.
Although it bore a later signature, it had been identified as the picture that sold in the Bonington studio sale in 1829 by Dr Marion Spencer, an expert on the artist.
At Sworders, it drew solid competition and was knocked down at £8600 to a London dealer.