A copy of George Stubbs’ (1724-1806) etching A Horse Affrighted by a Lion was consigned by a private collector in Herefordshire who had inherited the work from his father.
The etching from September 1777 has always held a special place for collectors and examples in favourable condition are something of a rarity. The artist’s first separately published print, the size of the original edition is not known for certain (no information is mentioned in Christopher Lennox-Boyd’s 1989 catalogue raisonné of Stubbs’ prints) but it is likely to be somewhat below 200 at the most.
Copies do appear at auction occasionally but values have often been limited by the variable quality of the printing and condition.
The impression here though was in a relatively good state, with strong contrasts of light and dark, and little evidence of wear in the plate.
Estimated at £4000-6000, it drew three serious bidders: a UK specialist dealer, an English private collector and an American gallery. It was eventually sold to the latter at £15,500 – a price well above what it might have been expected to take given that the last copy available at auction fetched £3500 at Roseberys in London in July 2019.
The price seemed to sum up the prints in the sale generally, underlining not only how well this sector has survived the pandemic but how sums seem to have risen for rare material in the intervening period.
Read our report of the Oliver Hoare print collection at Dominic Winter in this issue.