The range and quality of drawings and watercolours in this sale of Old Master and British works on paper is truly exceptional. The star among stars is surely Canaletto’s extraordinary masterpiece, The Coronation of the Doge on the Scala dei Giganti, without question the most important drawing by the artist to come to the market in a generation. A masterpiece of brilliant technique and witty observation, this perfectly preserved drawing is one of the grandest that Canaletto ever made. Originally part of a famous series of ten magnificent images of Venetian festivals, it was drawn in the 1760s and purchased not long afterwards by the English nobleman Richard Hoare, while on the Grand Tour. Since then, it has only ever been offered once at auction – and even then it was bought back by another proud member of the same family.
Other standout drawings, from earlier periods, include a splendid study of the figure of a river god, by Francesco Salviati and major, previously unrecorded drawings by two pioneering Dutch draughtsmen of the period around 1600, Jacques de Gheyn II and Joachim Wtewael.
In the 18th century, the great Canaletto is complemented by outstanding French drawings, notably a beautiful study of a seated girl, by Watteau, and a series of excellent studies by François Boucher, as well as a superb, characteristically disturbing drawing of a Seated Demon, by Fuseli.
Finally, in a very strong British section of the sale, there are no fewer than ten watercolours by Turner, alongside drawings by Constable and other leading English artists. The Turners include: two fascinating watercolours executed when the artist was only in his early teens; a magnificent, large-scale Scottish view, Kilchurn Castle, which Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1802 and subsequently sold to the ancestors of the current owners; a fascinating 1817 watercolour of the castle of Ehrenbreitstein, on the Rhine (the same location depicted in the great 1835 oil painting that is the star of this summer’s Old Master Paintings Evening Sale); and two fine, worked up watercolours from the late 1820s-early 1830s, from the artist’s ‘England and Wales’ series, one a bravura view of Lichfield Cathedral, the second a rather romantic depiction of Malmesbury Abbey.