A Year of Discovery at Sotheby's

Sell With Sotheby's: A look back at artworks consigned through the Pricing Platform in 2020

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S otheby’s pricing platform has been surprisingly busy despite national lockdowns in the U.K. and around the world. At the end of March, as the U.K. entered a two-month lockdown, the enquiries dropped dramatically, but they began to revive as our clients witnessed the range of on-line sales that Sotheby’s quickly introduced, and they realised that behind the scenes our specialists were still working hard to present sales, and more importantly that prices were holding up.

The months of June to September witnessed high volumes of enquiries, and the second lockdown in November did not reduce the flow, so the overall total of enquiries handled last year came in at only marginally less than 2019 despite Covid-19 and its dramatic effect on business around the world. The positive news is that we have sent out almost double the number of offers to consign this year in 2020 sold twenty percent more lots consigned by clients who used the pricing platform. The departments with the most enquiries by volume were jewelry, watches and prints, but we dealt on a day-to-day basis with almost anything from Impressionist paintings to Apollo space memorabilia.

The following lots are a varied representation of lots consigned to Sotheby’s since the Spring lockdown and show the confidence of our clients to contact Sotheby’s even in a difficult year.


An Heirloom Fabergé Clock

Consigned to Sotheby's by a U.S. client, this elegant Fabergé timepiece in a gold mounted enamel frame was purchased by his father in 1964 from a NY dealer. We sold it in the 2nd December London sale of Russian works of Art. The frame had the additional attraction of a 1908 dated inscription to the reverse.


Horatio Gates' Historic Article of Convention

This very rare copy of the convention was the first to appear at auction for more than a century.
The Battles of Saratoga lasted for several weeks in the early autumn of 1777, with numerous encounters between Continental troops led by General Horatio Gates and British regulars, loyalist militia, and Hessian mercenaries invading from Canada under the command of General John Burgoyne.

The resulting American victory, which saw Burgoyne surrender his entire army on 17 October, was, as Edmund Morgan wrote in The Birth of the Republic, "a great turning point of the war because it won for Americans the foreign assistance which was the last element needed for victory."

In the terms of surrender they negotiated, Gates and Burgoyne agreed to a "convention," under which Burgoyne's troops could return to Europe after pledging that they would not return to fight against the American cause.


A Treasured Lalanne

This 44 cm long bronze cockerel by one of the hottest names in the Design world, François-Xavier Lalanne (1927–2008) was consigned by a Belgian client who originally purchased it from a specialist gallery. Lalanne was married to the sculptor Claude Lalanne, and they were both championed by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, becoming sought after designers in both Paris and New York.

A Vibrant Peploe Landscape

This Samuel John Peploe oil included in the London Scottish painting sale was consigned by a client whose father had purchased the painting from a specialist dealer.

Towards the end of his life the majesty of mature trees had become one of Peploe’s most compelling subjects and his geometric exploration of them a clear reference to the influence of Paul Cézanne. The present work was likely painted in the summer of 1933 when the Peploe family went to stay with Louie Sinclair in the village of Calvine, Perthshire. The artist found much to paint in Perthshire and he became particularly fascinated with the pictorial possibilities of the winding roads.


A Regency Blue John Vase

This campana vase is one of four lots all consigned by a client whose father had collected Blue John in the 1980’s.

Blue John is a rare fluorspar characterised by its purple and white bandings which occurs only in Derbyshire where it has been treasured since Roman times. It was however mainly in the second half of the eighteenth century that the demand for Blue John was reignited, largely through the entrepreneurial metal-worker Matthew Boulton and the renowned neo-classical architect Robert Adam who realised the potential of the wonderful colouration, transparency and iridescence of the mineral.


John Brett's Calming Seascape

This jewel like painting by the Victorian painter John Brett was consigned by a client whose uncle purchased it in 1957. It was one of three oils by Brett consigned by the same client.

In his Studio Log Brett wrote, on 13 March 1899: "Newtrain Bay Trevone, the best 19 x 10 sketch I have got, sent to Birmingham. It has deep blue colour and good beach pebbles and nice distant clouds. Price £63 (no offers)."

It was painted during Brett's family holiday in the summer of 1889 when they stayed at Padstow and made sketching excursions all along the coast from Trevone and Gunver Head. Of his own work that summer Brett wrote: "I have a clear conviction that my sketches are better painted this year than at any previous date."


Barkley Hendricks' Contemporary Classic

This large painting by the American portrait artist Barkley J Hendricks of 1980 is the highest value lot to have come to Sotheby’s through the on-line appraisal service this year. The artist’s star is bright and auction values have escalated since his death in 2017 as collectors and museums compete to buy his paintings, primarily of African American sitters. The result shows the regard in which the artist is held.

Born in Philadelphia in 1945, Hendricks attended the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It was during these years that Hendricks first visited the European art centers that would prove to have a lasting effect on his unique style of portraiture, after observing first hand Hans Holbein the Younger’s meticulous attention to fabric and details in the folds of a sitter’s clothing and Gustav Klimt’s exquisite renderings of three-dimensional figures against a luminous, flat ground. Dismayed to find a dearth of black subjects, he decided to paint his own.


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