JMW Turner watercolour

A watercolour of Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire, by JMW Turner, £96,000 at Minster Auctions.

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Estimated at £30,000-50,000, the lot rose in increments of £1000 at the sale in Leominster, Herefordshire, on March 6. Three bidders were prepared to go over £80,000 to acquire it and the gavel eventually fell to a UK-based buyer on the phone.

With buyer’s premium added, the price was £115,200.

The 12¾ x 17in (32 x 43cm) work on paper laid down on card depicts a view of Hampton Court Castle, Herefordshire, from the south east. Datable to c.1796, it was believed to be one of a group of works depicting the property and its parkland painted for Viscount Malden who lived there from 1781-99.

A preparatory drawing for this view can be seen in Turner’s 1795 south Wales sketchbook in the Victoria & Albert Museum and leading Turner scholar Andrew Wilton has confirmed that the Minster watercolour is the work listed as No 98 in his 1979 catalogue raisonné on Turner.

When Hampton Court Castle (which dates back to the 15th century) was purchased by the famous industrialist Richard Arkwright in 1812 the watercolour passed to the Arkwright family as part of the contents. It was later transferred to another Arkwright home, Kinsham Court, Herefordshire, in 1911-12 and came to auction from a descendant of the family. The vendor had no other lots in this particular auction but had consigned a number of items to the saleroom in the past including the residual contents of Kinsham Court following its sale in 2023.

With impeccable provenance part of its considerable appeal, the £96,000 price was the second highest for a Turner sold at a UK auction outside London (the highest being the £118,000 for a view of Stonehenge sold at Nottingham saleroom Mellors & Kirk in 1994). It was also a house record for Minster Auctions.

The Minster sale follows a number of other ‘rediscovered’ Turners emerging of late. An original Turner drawing for a print in Scott’s Essays emerged as part of lot that made £14,000 at Hansons in Derbyshire in January, while a painting titled Sailing ships at sunset before an approaching storm available which was catalogued as ‘in the manner of’ the artist flew over a €2000-3000 estimate at Nagel in Stuttgart in November and sold at €300,000 (£260,870).