Three works by Dutch and Flemish painters – a dramatic cityscape and two works on paper – were among the lots catching the eye at the latest Old Masters, British & European Paintings sale at Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium) in Salisbury.
The cityscape was a vista showing London before the Great Fire of 1666. The 2ft x 3ft (61 x 91cm) oil on canvas was attributed to Thomas Wyck (1616-77), a Dutch painter from Haarlem who specialised in interior scenes as well as Italianate paintings of shipping and seaports.
He is thought to have studied under Adriaen van Ostade (1610-85) and likely went to Italy as a young man.
In his later career Wyck produced at least two dozen paintings portraying alchemists at work, two of which are now in Ham House, another in the Fitzwilliam Museum and seven held by the Wellcome Collection.
A similar work holds the artist’s auction record: An Alchemist at Work in a Vaulted Room, with a Woman Seated that sold for 351,825 Dutch guilders (£106,425) at Christie’s Amsterdam in 1998.
Wyck (also referred to as ‘Thomas Wijck’) had two spells in London.
The first was from c.1663-68 where he produced a number of impressive panoramas. They include a fine view of London from Southwark, showing St Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge, which is in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth House.
The second was from c.1673-74, when he came to England with his son, the painter Jan Wyck (1645- 1702) who would come to specialise in baroque landscapes as well as military and naval scenes. The two artists were based for a time at Ham House, receiving patronage from the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale.
The work offered in Salisbury on March 8 depicted a view looking north across the Thames with the Old Palace of Westminster, including St Stephen’s Chapel which then served as the chamber of the House of Commons, visible in the distance alongside Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey. To the right hand side is the Palace of Whitehall with Banqueting House prominent.
View of the Thames at Westminster on Lord Mayor’s Day was seemingly painted during Wyck’s first spell in England.
The river is shown packed with vessels including Livery Company barges with their guild banners on display. In the centre of the work, firing a salute as the flotilla passes, is a royal yacht, possibly the Royal Escape on which Charles II had taken passage to escape parliamentarian forces during the civil war.
An impressive picture in a good size with an added historical element, it was not only a rare example of a cityscape by the artist (such works come up less frequently than his interiors), but contemporaneous vistas showing London from before the Great Fire are not often available.
This example had previously been owned by the insurance firm Willis Group and had sold at Bonhams’ sale of the corporate collection in 2008 (ATG was unable to confirm the price). Consigned here from a private collection, it was estimated at £15,000-20,000 and, after generating a decent contest, was knocked down at £38,000 to the UK trade.
Considering that the previous auction high for a Thomas Wyck cityscape was a view of London ablaze during the Great Fire itself that made £29,890 at Sotheby’s back in 1991, the price here looked pretty strong.
The two works on paper that attracted strong interest at Woolley & Wallis both came from private sources and sold to European collectors.
A small oil on paper of two figures in a larder was catalogued as ‘circle of Frans Snyders (1579-1657)’ and estimated at just £200-300. Executed ‘en brunaille’ (meaning it was painted in different shades of brown), it also depicted a fish, swan, cabbage and a sheep’s head.
Snyders, a highly skilled Flemish painter who was a close friend of Rubens, produced plenty of hunting and market scenes but he is sometimes said to have mastered the painting of dead animals in particular.
He is known to have produced a number of larder scenes and this 6½ x 10¾in (16 x 27cm) sketch had certain stylistic similarities to his recorded brown ink drawings on this theme.
The ‘come-and-buy-me’ estimate meant it was always likely to attract strong levels of interest and, on the day, it was knocked down at £14,000 after a fervent bidding competition. This price represented a good sum even for a fully attributed Snyders sketch – standing comfortably in the top 10 recorded auction prices for works on paper by the artist according to Artprice.
Begeyn in demand
A bidding battle also broke out for a chalk drawing by the Dutch artist Abraham Jansz Begeyn (1637-97). The 10½ x 14½in (27 x 37cm) sketch depicted an avenue of trees and was signed to the lower left.
The artist was born in Leiden and travelled widely around the Netherlands and Germany (he also spent some time in England), producing a range of landscapes, topographical works and still lifes.
Towards the tail-end of his career he became court painter to Frederick III of Brandenburg (later Frederick I of Prussia) but died in Berlin when he fell from scaffolding as he was working.
While his paintings can make strong five-figure sums at auction, his drawings are much rarer on the market and have little track record in the saleroom. Estimated at £200-400, this example established a new benchmark when it drew considerable interest and was knocked down at £7500.
The top lot of the Woolley & Wallis sale was a later work by a German artist: an evocative view of an ancient Egyptian temple by Ernst Koerner (1846-1927).
The artist became captivated with Egypt after a trip in 1873 and the detailed architectural depictions he produced, often showing a falling sunset, became his best-known works – especially those of famous excavations that were taking place at the time.
Along with his views of other sites in Turkey and Middle East, they remain his most commercial pictures. The auction record for an individual work by Koerner remains the €90,000 (£71,045) for a view of the ruins of Baalbek Temple in Lebanon that sold at Dorotheum in Austria in 2014.
The 3ft 4in x 4ft 11in (1.01 x 1.5m) oil on canvas here depicted The Temple of Horus at Edfu, a remarkably well-preserved site on the west bank of the Nile.
Signed and dated 1888, it had plenty of appeal – not least the subject matter, the handling of both the architecture and evening light, and also the presence of figures to foreground and middle-ground – and it demonstrated how the artist’s market it not just the preserve of European buyers.
Estimated at £30,000-50,000, it was knocked down at £40,000 to a Middle Eastern collector.