The first offered on April 12 in west London was an oil of a nymph and satyr by the neoclassical French painter Constance Mayer (1775-1821).
Consigned from a private collection in London with an enticing estimate of £2000-3000, the 18 x 15in (47 x 39cm) oil on canvas attracted multiple bids before it was knocked down at £18,000.
The result makes it the highest price paid at auction for the artist’s work since her celebrated self-portrait with her father (exhibited at the Salon in 1801) sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1989 for $120,000, then about £65,000.
Only around two dozen works attributed to Mayer have appeared on the secondary market in the last three decades, largely because most of her best paintings were thought to be by Pierre-Paul Prud’hon (1758- 1823), her teacher and lover.
Both were known for the softness and sentimentality of their works.
Among Mayer’s best-known pictures is Le Flambeau de Vénus, once owned by the Empress Joséphine and now in the Wallace Collection.
Tragically, Mayer killed herself on hearing that Prud’hon would not remarry after the death of his wife, cutting her throat with his razor.
'Follower' of Goya
The second lot was a large portrait sketch of Maria Luisa de Parma, catalogued as 19th century by a ‘follower of’ Francisco Goya (1746- 1828).
Depicting the queen consort of Spain in a relaxed posture typical of Goya’s portraits of her and executed with “darting fluid brushwork reminiscent of a study from life”, the 3ft 1in x 2ft 2in (94 x 67cm) oil on canvas, was knocked down for £16,000, eight times its top estimate.
Judging by its performance it is possible that the market thought it could be an earlier work, perhaps 18th century or early 19th century, rather than a work by the great Spanish master himself.