LONDON - One of the greatest masterpieces of British art left in private hands, J.M.W. Turner’s Rome, from Mount Aventine, made history when it sold for £30.3 million ($47.4 million), a new auction record for the artist. The historic sale helped drive the Old Master & British Paintings Evening sale in London to a total £54 million. Last seen on the market in 1878, Turner’s spectacular late canvas is in immaculate condition and has remained in the same collection for the past 136 years.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.’s Rome, from Mount Aventine sold for £30.3 million.
Following the sale, Sotheby’s Alex Bell said, “It is hard to overstate the importance of Rome, from Mount Aventine. There are no more than half a dozen major works by Turner left in private hands and this work must rank as one of the very finest. This painting, which is nearly 200 years old, looks today as if it has come straight from the easel of the artist; never relined and never subject to restoration, the picture retains the freshness of the moment it was painted: the hairs from Turner’s brush, his fingerprint, the drips of liquid paint which have run down the edge of the canvas, and every scrape of his palette knife have been preserved in incredible detail."
Also highly sought after, Canaletto’s Venice, the Piazza San Marco Looking East Towards the Basilica, surpassed its presale low estimate, finally selling for £5.5 million ($8.5 million).