'At Prayer' by Jean-Léon Gérôme sold for £75,000 at Sotheby’s.

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Gérôme answers vendor’s prayers

A picture bought for around £4000 and eventually authenticated on the BBC programme Fake or Fortune? as by 19th-century French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme sold at Sotheby’s for a below-estimate £75,000.

The owner of the picture, Los Angeles artist Jon Swihart, had purchased it at auction in 1999 for $6325 (£4048) when it had been catalogued as Circle of Jean-Léon Gérôme.

He enlisted the help of the Fake or Fortune? presenters Fiona Bruce and art dealer Philip Mould to track down its provenance and investigate the work.

Following research, Emily Weeks, the art historian and acknowledged expert on Gérôme, authenticated the picture. Painted in 1858, At Prayer sold for £94,500 including fees at Sotheby’s online-only The Orientalist Sale last month.

Second Punchinello emerges on one day


Punchinello drawing by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – estimate £20,000-30,000 at Roseberys in London.

A Punchinello drawing by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’(1696-1770) comes for sale at Roseberys in London on November 17 – the same day another work from the same series appears at Dreweatts.

The familiar hook-nosed, humpbacked clowns over-indulging at the Verona Carnival were stock characters in the commedia dell’arte and Tiepolo produced many comical drawings on the theme. However, today only 36 are known.

The 8 x 9in (20 x 23cm) black chalk, brown ink and wash on paper depicting three figures around a gnocchi pot dates from the late 1730s.

Last sold at Sotheby’s in 1974, it is estimated at £20,000- 30,000.

By coincidence, another, larger, Tiepolo Punchinello drawing forms part of Dreweatts’ sale of the contents of Weston Hall, the seat of the Sitwell family since the early 20th century, in Newbury on November 16-17 (see News Digest, ATG No 2511).

With a provenance to the Henry Oppenheimer sale of Old Master Drawings at Christie’s in 1936, the 9 x 15in (24 x 37cm) drawing is now guided at £150,000-200,000.

New Cedric Morris home plan launched

The former home and art school of artist plantsman Sir Cedric Morris (1889-1982) is to become a centre for art and gardening following an agreement with The Garden Museum.

Benton End House on the outskirts of Hadleigh in Suffolk was purchased by Bridget Pinchbeck’s charitable trust. Now ownership of the house has been transferred to the Garden Museum in south London.

It plans to begin work renewing Morris’ garden next year. Redeveloping the house will be a longer-term project.

The Pinchbeck Charitable Trust’s only request was £350,000 to be paid in 2024 so it can continue to support other charitable causes.

Morris, a self-taught artist, founded the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in 1937 in Suffolk. He is now known today for horticulture as much as his paintings.

US museum given Washington medals

The American Numismatic Association’s Edward C Rochette Money Museum has received a large donation of medals related to George Washington from coin dealer Dwight Manley.

Described as ‘the ultimate grouping of numismatic Washingtonia’, the core of more than 1000 coins and medals is the collection formed by William Spohn Baker, the first cataloguer of the vast series of medals related to the first US president.

Baker’s book Medallic Portraits of Washington, was first published in 1885. His collection, deaccessioned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, was kept intact by Manley, managing partner of the California Gold Marketing Group.

It will form a new exhibit at the museum from March 2022.

Art fairs group hit by cyber-attack

MCH Group, parent company of the Art Basel and Masterpiece London fairs, told customers it had been hit by a criminal cyber-attack using malware.

It has been working closely with security and cybercrime specialists, including the Swiss National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the police and external experts. It said it does not yet know the extent of the data breach but it will keep customers informed.

O‘Donnell joins jewellery team


Emily O’Donnell has joined Woolley & Wallis.

Salisbury auction house Woolley & Wallis has appointed Emily O’Donnell as jewellery department co-ordinator. Previously a teacher, she has a degree in Fine Art from Falmouth University. She will work on W&W’s quarterly jewellery sales.

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In Numbers


'Leopard I' which sold for a premium inclusive €8.3m (£7.1m) at Sotheby’s Paris.


The premium-inclusive auction total of a collection of works by artist duo Claude (1925-2019) and François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008) which were sold by their daughter Dorothée at Sotheby’s Paris on November 4. A new Lalanne record was set by this 2005 Leopard I which sold for a premium inclusive €8.3m (£7.1m).