Estimated at £300-500, the 16 x 23in (41 x 58cm) oil on canvas took a total of 72 bids before it was knocked down at £20,000 to the surprise of many at the sale on March 10.
The vendor was not from the area but brought it to the Farnham auction house thinking it was the logical place to offer the work.
“The seller was rather pleased with his decision, especially as we only charged him our normal £10 vendor’s fee”, a spokesperson for the saleroom told ATG.
The picture had a label on the back for London dealership Appleby Bros Ltd which identified the artist as a J Fisher (c.1826-34) and the title as Street Scene at Farnham, 1826.
The artist was unknown to the auction house, hence the lowly estimate. A good deal of digging before the sale did not yield any known hand consistent with those dates.
The painting’s condition was described as ‘commensurate with its age’.
The scene itself, however, was particularly interesting as it contained a view of the old Market House – the building on the right with a bell tower – which was demolished in the 1870s.
The view down Farnham’s Castle Street from The Borough, looking towards the castle (originally built in 1138), remains largely unaltered, although today it houses a mixture of residential and business properties including upmarket chain restaurants.
These features, which added historical interest to the strong sense of place contained in the composition, gave it high appeal to two determined private collectors of local material, both of whom were existing clients of the saleroom. The auction took place barely half a mile from the picture’s location.
Meanwhile, over at Dominic Winter (20% buyer’s premium) in South Cerney, Gloucestershire, on March 9, an intriguing portrait of a Longhorn cow by another unknown naive artist also drew hefty competition.
Estimated at £200-300, the 15½ x 20in (39 x 51cm) oil on canvas was catalogued simply as ‘English Naive School (early 19th century)’. It had some indistinct initials to the lower right (possibly JWP) and one spot of minor surface loss centrally.
Livestock paintings such as this were produced commonly during this period as landowners commissioned itinerant artists to paint their prize-winning subjects, demonstrating their prowess for breeding.
Two of the leading names were John Vine of Colchester (1809-67), who plied his trade in the Essex market town and beyond, and John Boultbee (1753-1812), who produced a series of depictions of Leicestershire farmer Robert Bakewell’s famous herd of Longhorn cattle.
The market for folk art has grown significantly in recent times due to the decorative and quirky appeal of this whole area, which means even works by unnamed artists can find appeal.
Whether bidders had an idea of the hand behind the picture is unclear but this cow painting milked heavy demand from bullish bidders, selling at £7000.