Fine art dealer Daniel Hunt launched the business at 69 Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea, earlier this year and the first sale comprised over 150 lots of fine art, furniture, antiques, silver and antiquities.
With Old Masters featuring prominently in this debut auction on February 24, the three-quarter-length portrait of Anne, Lady Russell (later Countess of Bedford), came to auction from the private collection of a US lady, the daughter of Kenneth Franzheim II, the Houston oilman and ambassador under US President Richard Nixon.
Measuring 4ft 5in x 3ft 7in (1.35 x 1.1m), it showed Anne in a blue dress. It was similar in colour to that appearing in another portrait of her now in the Egremont collection at Petworth House. However, according to the catalogue, the current portrait was more closely related to another van Dyck painting in the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.
Anne was an esteemed beauty and clearly a favourite of the artist – she was painted many times by him and his studio and, in all, van Dyck produced six different portrait ‘types’ of the sitter.
Dr Malcolm Rogers, the former deputy director at the National Portrait Gallery, ascribed the current picture as a work by the artist but with “preparatory work by a member of his studio”.
He is quoted in the catalogue: “I cannot explain why the painting was left unfinished, but it is, must be, a distinct possibility that this is the very portrait of Lady Bedford that remained in van Dyck’s studio at the time of his death”.
While he believed it to be “of very high quality” throughout, the unfinished nature of this work may have held back a few parties in terms of bidding on the day.
The lot was estimated at £80,000-120,000 and sold on low estimate to the London trade.
Exotic bird life
Elsewhere in the sale, a 2ft 1in x 3ft 5in (64cm x 1.04m) oil on canvas of exotic birds in a landscape by Jakob Bogdani (1658-1724) came to auction from a manor house in East Anglia as part of the ‘property of a gentleman’.
Works by the Hungarian artist who specialised in paintings of wild birds and fowl appear at UK auctions from time to time. He emigrated to Amsterdam and then came to England where he spent over three decades and a number of his paintings can now be found in UK public collections.
However, an alternative attribution to Bogdani’s son-in-law Tobias Stranover (1684 -1756) was also put forward. While the two artists’ work can be quite similar and even sometimes quite difficult to tell apart due to the closeness of their style and compositions, Stranover’s works tend not to be quite so valuable.
The lot was offered in Chelsea with a guide of £8000-12,000, and sold at £8500 to a private English buyer.