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Hammer falls on rare lithograph of ‘lost’ masterpiece at £6,500

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A rare lithograph of Royal Academy artist David Roberts’ (1796-1864) ‘The Siege and destruction of Jerusalem’ was the undoubted star lot at Staffordshire auction house Cuttlestones’ Fine Art sale on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd March.

Depicting the Siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under the command of Titus, the whereabouts of original painting – which measured an epic 7 by 12 feet – are a mystery. It was lost in the 1960s following its sale at Christies to an Italian art dealer, after which it was sent to Rome and apparently sold on – but there is no record of its sale. The painting has a history of vanishing – after its premiere in London to unanimous acclaim from critics it disappeared in 1854, resurfacing only for the 1961 Christies auction.

This hand-coloured lithograph (Lot 80), taken from the original, is signed in pencil lower right by both Roberts and the prolific watercolour and lithograph artist Louise Haghe (1806-1885) with the hammer falling at £6,500 to a buyer in the room.

This was just one highlight in particularly strong 2-day mixed sale that attracted a bustling sale room alongside over 650 registered internet bidders, resulting in sales to over 16 countries including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, America, France and Central Africa.

Another artwork that got bidders hot under the collar was Lot 133, an interesting late 18th / early 19th Century landscape of the English school featuring figures on horseback driving sheep. In oil on canvas and measuring 76 x 112cm, the unsigned lot sold for £5,000 to a telephone bidder – despite having remained unsold in a previous auction.

The paintings section proved particularly fruitful – another notable lot being number 228; a floral oil on canvas still life by Cecil Kennedy (1905-1997) entitled ‘Summer’, signed lower right in a gilt frame it fetched £2,100 on the internet.

A rare item that produced an impressive performance came in the form of Lot 822; an English Civil War period siege helmet. Constructed of heavily blackened iron and comprising a two-piece rounded skull with three bar drop-down face guard, hinged one-piece neck guard and curved shoulder plates the lot sold for £3,500 – smashing the £2,880 it achieved at Bonhams in 2011.

Another particularly rare lot to come under the hammer in this sale hailed from the Taxidermy section. A Blonde Tarturga or South American turtle shell dating from the 19th Century sold to an internet bidder for £1,500.

In the coins and banknotes section, an extensive collection consigned from a local deceased estate including numerous full and original coin collections, all beautifully presented and in good condition, drew collectors out in force. Numbering Lots 514 – 570 it achieved an impressive total figure of £13,745.

Silverware also produced some impressive performances; notably lot 644, a heavy and impressive four piece hallmarked silver tea & coffee service by Roberts & Belks Ltd, marked for Sheffield 1975. Heavily detailed with floral decoration and acanthus scrolling handles and splay feet and with an approx combined weight of 3,350g the set sold for way above its scrap value for £1,600 to an internet bidder. Originating from the same Wolverhampton deceased estate, lot 645 – a silver twin handled tray by Roberts & Belks Ltd, Sheffield 1975 with approx. weight of 3,590g sold for £1,400 also online.

Meanwhile, lot 608 – a set of three silver tablespoons hallmarked for Dublin 1765 and bearing the marker’s mark for Francis Jones proved the enduring appeal of Irish silver. Engraved on the reverse with the head of a Unicorn between two Laurel branches and with an approx combined weight 220g, they sold to an internet bidder for £250. Similar spoons of English origin would be expected to fetch a rather less impressive £60.
The ‘swansong’ of the sale brought yet another strong performance as the final lot, number 933 – a large pair of bronze painted swans (American, circa 1970 on circular bases bearing signature ‘L Farnsworth’) –  was snapped up by a commission bid for £1,800. This topped off a fantastic sale, as Cuttlestones’ MD and Head Auctioneer, Ben Gamble, explains:

“For the sheer diversity of lots, this ranks as one of the most interesting Fine Art Sales we’ve hosted for some time. We are delighted with performances across the board, especially in the Paintings section as we have been focusing on improving the quality and quantity of consignments in this section and our efforts are really paying off. It was also great to see a really strong turnout in the sale room as well as the ever-growing contingent of internet bidders. Overall, I think this is a record-breaker in terms of the sheer number of countries we will be shipping lots to in the coming weeks. Our tagline of ‘the local sale room with a global reach’ really does ring true!”

To view the full catalogue, including hammer prices for all lots, head to our catalogue archive. Cuttlestones is now inviting consignments for its next Fine Art Sale set to take place in June 2017 – to arrange a valuation, call 01785 714905 or email [email protected]

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