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Painting by Joseph Wright of Derby that has not been accounted for more than 200 years to be sold
Attributed to Joseph Wright (of Derby) (1734-1797), ‘Landscape with Rainbow’. Oil on canvas, 70cm x 100cm. Estimate: £70,000 - £90,000.
WISBOROUGH GREEN.- On Wednesday 24th April 2013, Bellmans Auctioneers in Wisborough Green, West Sussex will offer for sale ‘Landscape with Rainbow’ attributed to the renowned 18th century portrait and landscape artist Joseph Wright of Derby. The sale will commence at 2pm with viewing prior to the sale. A full catalogue description, with provenance will be printed in the catalogue and will be available at

The painting found its way to Bellmans after one of their specialists had building work undertaken by a local builder. Through a conversation with the builder it was found the family had inherited a Joseph Wright of Derby painting and had wished to sell. After deliberation by the family, the painting was brought to Bellmans in early January where the investigation into its provenance and history started…..

James Gadd, Paintings Specialist at Bellmans auctioneers, comments: “Bellmans are very excited to be offering such a potentially important painting attributed to arguably the most significant artist of the Industrial Revolution. Wright’s style is widely recognised and is in the collections of some of the most prominent galleries certainly in the UK and further afield. I will be extremely interested to see the market’s interest in a picture closely comparable with one in the largest collection of Wright’s work at Derby Museum.”

In accordance with Judy Egerton’s exhibition catalogue for the Tate, it was noted that two versions of this painting were produced. While one is known to currently reside at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, the other remains unaccountable. ‘Landscape with Rainbow’ was frequently made reference to in accounts books, letters and papers, which suggests that the painting in Bellmans sale may in fact be the second copy, currently absent from listings. Of the two copies, one was recorded to have been painted for Nathanial Philips in 1795 and was scheduled to be sent to America. This version has never been traced and has been unrecorded for 200 years. The other painting was documented to have been part of the contents of Wright’s studio sale which took place in 1801. At this point Wright’s daughter and descendants took procession of the painting. It was later passed to A. J. Keene and ultimately purchased by the Derby Museum in 1913.

On discovery of this, the team at Bellmans took the painting to the Derby Museum to make a direct comparison and discuss ‘Landscape with Rainbow’ with the experts in Joseph Wright of Derby.

Although the ‘scumble’ effect typical of his work is visible in both examples, the effect is less pronounced in this late work. This might have been due to Wright’s subjection to illness during this period of his life, including what sounds like a stroke. Joseph Wright of Derby was seen as a pioneer in depicting luminescence within his landscape and portraiture paintings, as well as portraying the movement of the Industrial Revolution which was very much in progress during his painting years. This landscape composition with rainbow demonstrates Wright’s masterly use of light and shade, with light playing on the flowing water and the luminous glow of the rainbow against threatening storm clouds.

This version of ‘Landscape with Rainbow’ attributed to Wright is from the collection of a descendant of the Marshall family, who in the 18th & 19th centuries were considered the largest Salt Proprietors and the wealthiest industrial leaders in Cheshire. The family was recognised for being collectors of precious heirlooms and acquired numerous paintings. While there is no evidence to suggest that Wright personally knew the Marshall family, they are nevertheless to be counted among the wealthy and influential industrialists some of whom were known to patronise Wright’s work, such as Richard Arkwright and Josiah Wedgwood. It also illustrates that this is this kind of wealthy household where a painting of this sort of importance could have easily have been within the collection. A letter from Joseph Wright to John Leigh Philips, the kinsman of Nathanial Phillips who commissioned a version of this painting, highlighted his concerns at completing the paintings prior to Philips scheduled departure for America. If it did miss this deadline, it may be that this is the same version left in the United Kingdom and instead sold to a local collector.

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