“Am I worthy of all these honours?”
These are the words an overwhelmed Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is said to have remarked on the day she set sail for England to become George III’s wife.
An artist’s impression of the pomp and pageantry that greeted the teenage princess as she embarked from Cuxhaven in August 1761 was included in a sale of traditional pictures, antiques and Northern art at Newcastle upon Tyne auction house Anderson & Garland (22% buyer’s premium).
The large 18th century marine oil showed the flag-festooned flotilla of ships sent to escort her across the North Sea to Harwich, including the Royal Caroline, Britain’s largest royal yacht – hastily renamed Royal Charlotte to celebrate the new bride.
The auction house attributed the unsigned 2ft 11in x 4ft 11in (89cm x 1.51m) oil to marine painter Thomas Allen (c.1739-72), based on an old insurance valuation by Christie’s.
Allen is known to have painted scenes of Princess Charlotte’s journey to England, including one of the flotilla in a storm (the voyage was beset by bad weather) which sold at Christie’s in 2004 for a premium-inclusive £38,000.
‘Entertaining and busy’
Maritime historian Michael Naxton told ATG the painting sold at Anderson & Garland was “a very entertaining and busy picture, which gave a most perfect and detailed view of what happened on that happy day when Princess Charlotte started her journey to England”.
He added: “There are quite a number of paintings by numerous artists of the stormy voyage and the little fleet of ships arriving at Harwich but I have never personally seen another view of the departure from Germany, which I think adds to the interest a great deal.”
It was the first time the painting had been offered on the open market, having been consigned by a Northumbrian family with ancestral links to Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole via his four-times great-nephew Colonel Horace Walpole of Heckfield Place in Hampshire.
Offered on June 8 with an estimate of £25,000-35,000, it sold on the phone for £43,000 to a dealer who fought off competition from another member of the trade bidding on behalf a client.
After the sale, auctioneer John Anderson told ATG: “This was a beautiful painting to handle, combining quality and good provenance. It was a very niche product – there are not that many homes in Britain looking for an Old Master marine painting of this size.”
Elsewhere at the 695-lot auction – which achieved a high selling rate of around 85% – demand also emerged for a small oil of a woman and child by Staithes Group artist Robert Jobling (1841-1923).
The 15 x 11½in (39 x 29cm) oil on canvas, signed and dated 1916, came with provenance to a 1992 exhibition of Jobling’s works at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. Estimated at £2000-3000, it sold to the trade for £4200.
For Anderson, the price reflects a rise in demand for pictures by the Yorkshire art colony. “After being in the doldrums for a while, there has been a revival of interest in Staithes Group pictures. This painting was bought by a Yorkshire dealer who has revived his client list for Staithes pictures.”
Anderson said he could also see the green shoots of recovery in the wider market for quality Victorian oils: “Nineteenth century pictures have been too cheap too long and a lot of people are waking up to that.”
Another regular feature at Anderson & Garland is works by Spennymoor mining artist Norman Cornish (1919-2014), the so-called ‘pitman painter’. This sale included The Gantry, a 10 x 8in (26 x 21cm) watercolour view of miners going on shift.
The vendor had bought it from the Stone Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, where the artist regularly exhibited in the 1960s-70s alongside LS Lowry.
With a premium paid on works from this period – Anderson says he can get around 20% more on pictures with a Stone Gallery provenance – the watercolour tipped over top estimate to sell to a collector for £3200.