Wright of Derby Breaks Auction Record in London Old Masters Sale

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Joseph Wright of Derby's 1769 masterpiece An Academy by Lamplight lit up the London saleroom in the Old Masters Evening Sale when it broke the auction record for the artist, selling for £7.3 million, more than double its high estimate. In an evening of triumph for British masters, two landscapes by John Constable produced strong results, with the recently rediscovered The Opening of Waterloo Bridge achieving £2.3 million. Other highlights include a Bellotto view painting of Venice and many early Renaissance paintings, which combined sold for £6.3 million. Click through to see highlights from the sale, which reached a total of £25,048,950.

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Wright of Derby Breaks Auction Record in London Old Masters Sale

  • Joseph Wright of Derby, A.R.A., An Academy by Lamplight. Sold for: £7,263,700.
    The greatest masterpiece by Wright of Derby left in private hands, this picture is one of the most iconic images of the British Romantic movement. An Academy by Lamplight is one of a small number of important early candlelit subject paintings, all of which were painted in the late 1760s and early 1770s before he travelled to Italy, which both established the artist's contemporary celebrity and for which he is most famous today.


    Watch a video recreation of An Academy by Lamplight.

  • John Constable, R.A., The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, seen from Whitehall Stairs, London, 18 June 1817. Sold for: £2,289,000.
    This recently rediscovered sketch is an important, previously lost, early study for one of John Constable's most celebrated paintings, The Opening of Waterloo Bridge (Tate Gallery), which the artist exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1832. Probably the artist's first attempt at working out the composition, it is believed to be the picture Constable showed to Joseph Farington in 1819, an event recorded in the latter's diary for 11 August that year but which hitherto no previously known sketch has been traced.

  • Bernardo Bellotto, Venice, a view of the Grand Canal looking north from near the Rialto Bridge, with the Fabbriche Nuove on the left. Sold for: £2,049,000.
    Recognised only recently as a work by Bernardo Bellotto, this luminous morning view of The Grand Canal, looking north from near the Rialto Bridge combines the young painter’s assimilation of his uncle Canaletto's technique with his own distinctive style, exemplifying his precocious talent and extraordinary qualities. Both painters captured this classic Venetian scene with rather different results. Bellotto's view is likely to date to about 1738, during a period early in his career when his works were often mistaken for those of his uncle. Indeed in some respects this painting may be seen as an instance of Bellotto surpassing the example of his celebrated master.


    Take a video tour through Bellotto and Canaletto's Venice.

  • John Constable, R.A., Dedham Vale with the River Stour in flood from the grounds of Old Hall, East Bergholt. Sold for: £1,809,000.
    Painted circa 1814–17, this exceptionally fine painting is a rare masterpiece of Constable's early period and one of only a small handful of such paintings remaining in private hands. Long mistakenly thought to be by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775–1862), a friend and contemporary of Constable's, recent scientific analysis and up-to-date connoisseurship has unanimously returned the work to its rightful place among the canon of the great master's work and established beyond doubt its true authorship. It is without question one of the most exciting and important additions to Constable's œuvre to have emerged in the last fifty years.


    Watch the video exploring the rediscovery of this Constable landscape.

  • David Teniers the Younger, An elegant company before a pavilion in an ornamental garden. Sold for: £1,569,000.
    Painted on an unusually large copper plate, this painting depicts a large group of elegantly dressed figures informally gathered in a formal garden, serenaded by a guitar-player, and served chilled wine and food, anticipating the eighteenth-century fête gallante. The setting and the figures portrayed place Teniers at the centre of artistic life in Antwerp in the mid-seventeenth century. The backdrop is a garden pavilion closely based (apart from the lower register) on the loggia in the garden of Rubens' house in Antwerp (now the Rubenshuis), where it is still visible today.

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Faun Family.
    Sold for: £789,000.
    When Lucas Cranach the Elder painted The Faun Family in 1531, the German artist had reached the height of his career, by then a celebrated court painter for the Electors of Saxony. His wealthy clients commissioned popular mythological scenes, keen to marvel at the master’s virtuosity in bringing these legends to life. At the time, as reports of travellers encountering ancient tribes in the newly discovered Americas were beginning to circulate, scholars were also renewing their contemplation of the original state of mankind.

  • Gaspar Van Wittel, Called Vanvitelli, Two landscapes with the Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati and the Villa Farnese at Caprarola. Sold for: £777,000.
    The Fleming Gaspar van Wittel, known by his Italian sobriquet Vanvitelli, created a new type of painting around 1700, the veduta, that would inspire several generations of artists in the years to come, among them Canaletto, Bellotto and Guardi. The Villa Aldobrandini is situated in Frascati, to the south-east of Rome and still remains the property of the Aldobrandini family, for whom it was built in the 1500s. The Villa Farnese in Caprarola, depicted in the second painting, is situated in the hills to the north of Rome. Built in several stages over the course of the 1500s, it was the brainchild of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the future Pope Paul III.

  • The Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds, The Annunciation to the Shepherds;The Adoration of the Shepherds. Sold for: £753,000.
    The Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds was one of the finest and most striking artists active in Naples in the wake of Caravaggio. Clearly working in the close ambit of Jusepe de Ribera his anagraphical identity eludes us,  though his stylistic personality is quite defined: very much rooted in the chiaroscuro idiom, his œuvre comprises a homogeneous group of figurative paintings, of which a handful are mythological, some half-length single figure studies, and several treatments of the subject of the Annunciation. 

  • Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucretia. Sold for: £669,000.
    The subject of Lucretia, a Roman noblewoman who killed herself to preserve her family's honour following her rape at the hands of Sextus Tarquinius, was a particular favourite of Lucas Cranach, and over thirty versions by him or his workshop are recorded. In each case the painter eschewed the story of the rape itself; instead he presents Lucretia alone at the very moment of her death, the dagger in her hand. Cranach returned to this theme for over thirty years. The present work was probably painted in or around 1525. After 1530, Cranach increasingly seems to have favoured fully nude versions, perhaps as a result of demand from his patrons.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait of Anne Sophia, Countess of Carnarvon (d. 1695). Sold for: £585,000.
    Painted circa 1636, at the height of Van Dyck’s career during the halcyon years in London before the English Civil War, this grand yet beautifully restrained portrait conveys a sober dignity seldom seen in the artist's work. The smooth handling and soft tonality of the face is typical of Van Dyck's very finest female portraiture, while the blond curls of her hair are panted with a fresh, lively touch.


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