Portrait attributed to Sir David Wilkie – £16,000 at Eldreds.

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The 14½ x 12½in (37 x 32cm) oil on panel was unsigned and unframed but, despite a few scuffs, was in attractive untouched condition although it required a clean.

It came to auction having previously been owned by the Scottish draughtsman Sir Muirhead Bone (1876-1953) and was part of the estate of his grandson who lived locally to the saleroom.

The firm’s picture consultant felt that it was the work of the Scottish artist Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841). It was certainly sensitively executed, showing the subject holding two clam shells and standing by a building with a landscape behind.

The Scottish artist was probably most famous for his historical and genre scenes although his later portraits were also highly regarded.

His more exotic subjects are much rarer and tend to date from the last years of his life, especially those made on his trip eastwards in the autumn of 1840.

Extended stay

Wilkie had intended to paint a series of biblical subjects set in the Holy Land but he was detained in Constantinople for an extended period because of the war in Syria. While there he met John Frederick Lewis and painted a portrait of the young Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid (a work he gave to Queen Victoria and which remains in the Royal Collection).

He also made sketches of the local scenery and other figures, something he continued to do while travelling in Lebanon, Jordan, Jerusalem and Egypt. Some of these pictures were eventually turned into lithographs by Joseph Nash and published posthumously in the 1846 volume Sir David Wilkie’s Sketches, Spanish & Oriental. Wilkie himself died at sea near Malta on the return journey after falling ill in June 1841.

The picture at Eldreds was thought to depict an Indian subject and was offered as ‘attributed to’ Wilkie. Given a cautious pitch of £300-500, it attracted bidders from India and Europe as well as a few London and provincial galleries.

With eight phone lines booked as well as a number of interested parties bidding online, it was taken up to a £16,000, at which point it was knocked down to a local buyer in the room.