A re-rendered copy of Fortunino Matania’s The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Bois, £21,000 at Clevedon Salerooms.

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The signed 20in x 2ft 6in (52 x 75cm) oil on canvas was painted by Italian-born war artist Fortunino Matania (1881-1963) and is a version of his best-known work The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Bois.

It depicts soldiers of the Royal Munster Fusiliers regiment receiving ‘general absolution’ from their chaplain on the eve of battle in May 1915. Most of them died within 24 hours.

The original painting first appeared as a print in Sphere magazine, and copies were displayed in many houses throughout Ireland, especially Munster.

Matania was not present at the scene but based his painting on a written account by Lieutenant Colonel Rickard’s widow, Jessie, who is believed to have commissioned the painting in memory of her husband. (It has been suggested the original work may have been destroyed in the Second World War.)

The version at Clevedon Salerooms came from the principal contents of Gatcombe Court in north Somerset, home of the Clarke family. It was commissioned in 1919 for Alfred Robinson of Backwell House, to celebrate the return from the First World War of his son Esmond, and had passed by descent.

“We looked at recent records for Matania and found a couple of sales at £6000 to £7000 but given the fact that this was effectively a re-rendering of his original we felt that the estimate was sensible, though the family had hopes around £7500”, said Clevedon Salerooms director Mark Huddleston, who estimated it at £5000-7000.

In the event, it attracted multiple bids before it was knocked down for £21,000 to a buyer in Ireland bidding via The sum appears to be an auction record for the artist.

New Zealand scene


Lake Manapouri, South Island, New Zealand by Nicholas Chevalier, £21,000 at Clevedon Salerooms.

Another highlight was a 19th century view of New Zealand’s South Island by Nicholas Chevalier (1828-1902).

The Russian-born painter was one of the first academically trained artists active in Australasia and his detailed colonial landscapes of regional Victoria and New Zealand are of special interest to collectors. Prices tend to range from £10,000-50,000, depending on condition, size, date and subject, with those painted during the gold rush period in the 1860s fetching the most money.

The Clevedon example, signed and dated 1882, is thought to depict Lake Manapouri with a view past Mahara Island towards Cathedral Peaks and features two Maori figures and their dog beside a canoe at the water’s edge in the foreground.

Forming part of the deceased estate of a lady from a ‘prominent Bristol family’, the 23in x 2ft 11in (60 x 90cm) oil on canvas was knocked down on the phone at £21,000 against a £5000-7000 estimate.

It appealed to both New Zealand collectors and several UK-based parties including the winning bidder, who told the auction house it was only the second work by Chevalier he had managed to buy in the last 30 years.