The Artist’s Children Blowing Bubbles by Philip de László, £11,000 at Roseberys.

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Most recently two portraits depicting the Hungarian-born painter’s children emerged from the same private collection at Roseberys (26% buyer’s premium) of West Norwood, south London, on February 27.

While the artist’s large and striking portraits of the great and the good of late Victorian and Edwardian society lead the way commercially when it comes to de László, these smaller and more informal works had an intimacy that appealed to certain buyers even though they were inevitably less valuable.

The first to be offered was a loosely painted scene from 1914 of two of the artist’s sons, Paul Leonardo and Patrick David, playfully blowing bubbles over a bowl on a table (the artist had five sons and a daughter with his wife Lucy, née Guinness).

The free handling of the 15 x 19in (38 x 49cm) signed oil on canvas suggested it was a study for a finished painting, although a completed version is unknown.

The subject and composition had some similarities to a larger and more finished depiction from 1918 of his youngest son, John Adolphus, peering into a goldfish bowl, which sold at Christie’s for £45,000 in 2020.

Here, with the toys scattered on the table, the work seemed to be a spontaneous sketch capturing an everyday family moment which, although more attractive to some minds, meant it fell into a lower price bracket.

Sensibly the estimate was reflective of this and, pitched at £5000-7000, it duly commanded interest and sold at £11,000 to a UK-based private collector. The buyer is the owner of New Place Hotel in Hampshire and has now amassed around 20 works by de László. They are all hung in one of hotel’s dining rooms.

Scout and about


Portrait of John Adolphus de László, the artist’s son, £14,000 at Roseberys.

The following lot was a portrait of John Adolphus from 1926 depicting him in a scout’s uniform.

The sitter was 14 at the time and de László shows him with his piercing blue eyes directed at the viewer in an unwavering gaze – a pose and style not unlike some of his depictions of the artist’s wife Lucy (in particular a 1902 portrait showing her holding a violin).

The work at Roseberys, a 21 x 12¾in (53 x 32cm) signed oil on panel, was slightly larger and more realised than the previous lot but again the estimate was set at an attractive level. Surpassing expectations of £6000-8000, it sold at £14,000 to the same buyer.

Roseberys’ picture specialist Charlotte Russell said: “The hammer prices achieved not only attest to the continued strength of turn-of-the-century pictures and de László portraiture in the current market, but also show buyers’ ongoing fascination with pictures that provide glimpses into artists’ lives.”

Recent buys go on show in Suffolk

A few weeks after the Roseberys sale, the exhibition at Gainsborough’s House titled Philip de László: Master of Elegance was opened by London dealer Philip Mould.

The first public show focusing on the artist’s career in Britain, it has a number of works on loan from private collections including two pictures that were previously untraced but appeared at European auctions at the end of last year. Both were bought by UK collectors who agreed to lend them to this display which is curated by the De Laszlo Archive Trust.


A Japanese Doll and a Bunch of Grapes on a Silver Dish by Philip de László, €10,000 (£8560) at AAG Auctioneers. It appears at the exhibition dedicated to the artist at Gainsborough’s House in Suffolk.

One is a still-life that emerged at AAG Auctioneers (29.6% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Amsterdam in December. Again, it was a more relaxed and personal painting that contrasted to de László’s society portraits.

The 20 x 16in (51 x 41cm) oil on canvasboard from 1919 was one of a number of still-lifes he painted while interned during the First World War (he suffered a nervous breakdown while imprisoned having been accused of making contact with the enemy).

This work was painted shortly after he finally regained his liberty after being exonerated.

The Japanese doll in the painting, a gift to his wife from First Lady Mrs Theodore Roosevelt, appears in other family portraits dating from this time.

With a still-life being some of a rarity on the market in comparison to de László portraits, this one drew decent interest against a €3000-5000 estimate and was knocked down at €10,000 (£8560), again to the owner of the New Place Hotel as mentioned above.

The other work at the exhibition that recently hit the auction block was a portrait of Elisabeta, Queen of Greece: a work painted in Paris in 1924 where she and her husband, King George II of Greece were forced into exile.

Having been traced only recently after spending almost 100 years in an unknown collection, it was offered at Artcurial in the French capital in November with an estimate of €30,000-40,000. This level proved slightly punchy and it was unsold on the day, but it was acquired after the sale for an undisclosed sum.

It has since been cleaned and looks “so much more brilliant” according to Katherine Field, senior editor at the De Laszlo Archive Trust.

Philip de László: Master of Elegance runs to June 23. See the websites below for more information.