Paintings by leading British sporting artists including Peter Tillemans, Francis Sartorious, John Wootton, Thomas Spencer and John Nost Sartorious went under the hammer for the first time in over 100 years at the Cheffins Autumn Sale on 1st October.
Depicting some of the most famous horses in the history of British racing, the 20 works totalled £432,600 collectively. These important paintings made up the core of a private collection initially begun in 1849 by John Dunn Gardner (1811 1903) and later added to by his son Algernon Dunn Gardner (1853 1929) for their illustrious country house near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Jonathan Law, Partner, Cheffins comments: “The Autumn Sale presented a rare opportunity for buyers to purchase pictures of some of the most important and influential horses in the history of racing. The success of this sale shows a continued demand for fine, privately owned examples of sporting art is still prevalent, with strong prices being driven by collectors, racing connoisseurs and the fine art trade. Collections of this quality and calibre now rarely come to the market and the prices achieved demonstrate the importance of these paintings which have been held in private hands for over a century.”
The highlight of the sale was a panoramic view by the Anglo Flemish sporting and topographical artist Peter Tillemans (1684-1734) which recorded King George I visit to Newmarket in 1717 and sold for £125,000 far exceeding its presale estimate of £40,000 - 60,000. Believed to have been commissioned by The Hon. Charles Colyear, later 2nd Earl of Portmore (1700-1785), Colyear can be identified in the painting riding alongside the King in a red coat while the renowned thoroughbred Flying Childers is led by a groom in yellow and presented to the King for his inspection. The town of Newmarket features in the distance beyond the royal party.
Alongside this, a series of equine portraiture included two pictures by John Wootton (1682 1764), titled, A Chestnut Racehorse and A Bay Racehorse selling for £75,000 and £74,000 respectively. These were closely followed by a portrait of the stallion The Bloody Shouldered Arabian, also by Wootton, which sold for £45,000.
The sale included a portrait of Eclipse with his jockey John Oakley by John Nost Sartorious (1759-1828), which sold for £11,000 against a presale estimate of £4,000 - £6,000. Eclipse considered the greatest racehorse of all time was the great, great grandson of The Darley Arabian, one of three dominant foundation sires of modern thoroughbred bloodstock. Similarly, a small double portrait by Sartorious of Eclipse and Bucephalus, sold for £6,500.
Additional highlights of the collection included a portrait of the 3rd Duke of Grafton by John Nost Sartorious, dated 1786 and which sold for £17,000; a picture of Babraham by Thomas Spencer, for £5,500; a painting of Waxy by Francis Sartorious for £6,000; and Smolensko by John Nost Sartorious for £4,800.
Also included in The Autumn Sale were 18th and 19th century paintings, collectibles, furniture and decorative objects. A depiction of The Bull and Mouth Inn, St Martin’s Le Grand, London by Charles Cooper Henderson (1803 – 1877) exceeded all expectations and after a fierce bidding war the hammer eventually fell at £26,000 against its presale estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. Similarly, a Leeds pottery horse, dating from 1825 sold for £17,000, a Louis XV tulipwood secretaire cabinet made £19,000 and a late 17th century Italian walnut table sold for £10,000. The final total of the 154 lot sale realising £735,000.
The Autumn Sale took place on Thursday 1st October at Cheffins' Salerooms at Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge.
Image: 'A Chestnut Racehorse held by his jockey at Newmarket' John Wootton (British, c.1682-1764).