Old Master Paintings auction made £3,403,920 this afternoon with a packed saleroom and numerous telephone bidders. The highlight was the sale of the last privately owned portrait of General James Wolfe - the soldier from Kent who conquered Canada - which sold to a Canadian buyer for £400,800.
Wolfe led the British assault on Quebec in 1759, with the resulting Battle of the Plains of Abraham (or the Battle of Quebec) being one of the most celebrated events in British military history and a pivotal victory in the Seven Years War. He was mortally wounded during the battle and died on the field, yet his victory earned him posthumous fame and it proved to be a deciding moment in the conflict between France and Britain. The portrait is attributed to the Circle of Joseph Highmore.
The top selling lot of the day was A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, snowdrops, lilies, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects. Painted on copper by Jan van Kessel the Elder, it sold for £804,000.
Other highlights included beautiful painting of A young boy making bubbles by Caspar Netscher which made £222,000 against a presale estimate of £60,000-80,000. Two works by Gaspar van Wittal were also popular with bidders. An extensive view of Hoorn sold for £276,000 (estimate £25,000-35,000) and A view of Amersfoort from the north fetched £180,000 (estimate £25,000-35,000). A Portrait of a lady, believed to be Mary Queen of Scots sold for £60,000.
Andrew Mckenzie, Head of Bonhams Old Master Paintings Department comments, We were absolutely delighted with the results today and it was particularly exciting to handle a portrait of such historical importance. Among my early schoolboy memories is being taught about Wolfes celebrated victory at Quebec. Rarely does one have the opportunity to sell a major portrait of such a momentous historical figure.