Birkbeck family portrait collection sells for £83,980 at important Fine Art sale

Portraits of some of Britain’s most famous historical figures have been sold at Cheffins at the Fine Art Sale on 8th March.

Originating from the historic West Acre High House in Norfolk, which is now owned by Sir Anthony Gormley, the private collection has hit the open market for the first time. Within the collection are works by some of the most prominent portrait painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, including the likes of Charles Jervas, Antoine-Francois Callet and Henry William Pickersgill.


The highlight of the collection was a portrait of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Charles Jervas. The picture is thought to date back to 1725 and had been painted as a gift for Walpole’s sister Susan Hamond. It depicts the Prime Minister wearing the prestigious Order of the Bath and with the Chancellor’s Bag. It was sold for £28,000.  


Another major work within the collection was a portrait of Louis XVI of France by Antoine-Francois Callet which was acquired at The Stowe House Sale in 1848. This portrait was presumed a gift to the family by the future Louis XVIII before he retook the French fall following the fall of Napoleon in 1815. Richard Plantagenet, Earl Temple, and later 1st Duke Buckingham, provided a home and financial help to the King during his exile. Callet was known to have painted the prime portrait of Louis XVI in 1778 and fifteen further versions. This item sold for £19,000.  


Another highlight was a portrait of Viscountess Townshend of Raynham, Sir Robert Walpole’s sister, also by Charles Jervas, which made £4,400. Lady Townshend is alleged to be the identity of ‘The Brown Lady’ of Raynham Hall, which supposedly haunts Houghton Hall and Sandringham House. ‘The Brown Lady’ became one of the most famous hauntings in Great Britain when photographers from Country Life Magazine claimed to have captured its image in 1936. This picture is one of at least three commissions of Lady Townshend from Charles Jervas, one being shown at Strawberry Hill, the former home of Horace Walpole.   


Brett Tryner, Cheffins, comments: “This is an historically important selection of pictures and portraits from one of Britain’s greatest families.  These pictures were fresh to the market and the prices paid today are reflective of their rarity. Pictures of some of our country’s most important historical figures, painted by some of the most preeminent artists of the time are always popular with a combination of private collectors and institutions.” 


The paintings were sold at Cheffins' Fine Art Sale  on Thursday 8th March Location.


For more information, contact the Fine Art team or telephone 01223 213343 


For further media information, please contact Sophie Richardson, PR Manager, Cheffins, telephone 01223 271 990.




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