Portrait of Lady Elizabeth Mary, Countess of Belgrave by Sir Thomas Lawrence, estimate $30,000-50,000 at Cottone Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Clifton was an important figure in the early years of the automotive industry, overseeing the evolution of a bicycle wheel manufacturer into the Pierce-Arrow Motor Company. A recipient of the legion d’honneur for his work with the Allied war relief in France, he served on the board of the Albright Knox Art Museum from 1914 until his death in 1928.

He collected English portraiture at that extraordinary moment in the first quarter of the 20th century when prices were at their peak. The 1818 portrait of Lady Elizabeth Mary, Countess of Belgrave, who later became Marchioness of Westminster, comes with full documentation including a copy of a 1923 receipt from Fearon Galleries in New York.

Then it had cost a mighty $20,000 (equivalent in purchasing power to around $400,000 today). Precisely 101 years later the picture comes for sale at Cottone with a guide of $30,000-50,000.

A second (unfinished) Lawrence oil depicts Lady Fitzwilliam, daughter of the Earl of Pembroke. This picture was part of the Bretby Heirlooms sale that was held for the 7th Earl and the Dowager Countess of Chesterfield by Christie’s in London in June 1918. It was acquired by Clifton from Knoedler & Co, New York in 1923 at a cost of $9000. This time out, it is guided at $15,000-25,000.