A painting of Rome by the 19th-century British artist J.M.W. Turner bought by a member of the Rothschild family is expected to fetch as much as 18 million pounds ($26.7 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in July.
Turner’s 1839 canvas, “Modern Rome -- Campo Vaccino,” will be on sale for the first time since 1878, when it was purchased on honeymoon by Hannah Rothschild and her husband, the 5th Earl of Rosebery, the future U.K. Prime Minister, the New York-based company said today in an e-mailed statement.
“The family thought it was a good moment to sell,” Sotheby’s U.K. Deputy Chairman David Moore-Gwyn said in an interview. “Recently there has been a series of strong prices for magnificent works that are fresh to the market, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in a year’s time.”
Record prices of 29.2 million pounds for a Raphael drawing at Christie’s International in December and 65 million pounds for Giacometti’s 1961 bronze “Walking Man I” at Sotheby’s last month have encouraged sellers to enter high-value works into auctions.
The twilit view of some of the Italian capital’s most famous monuments will be included in Sotheby’s July 7 auction of Old Master and Early British Paintings.
Rosebery paid 4,450 guineas -- an old British currency -- for the 4-foot-wide (1.2-meter) work, and it hung in the family’s country mansion, Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, and their London residences for a century, said Sotheby’s.
The Turner is being sold by an unidentified descendant of the 5th Earl, said Moore-Gwyn. Harry Dalmeny, heir to the present 7th Earl of Rosebery, is deputy chairman of Sotheby’s U.K.
Joseph Mallord William Turner is regarded as the U.K.’s most important pre-20th century artist, said dealers, and is the most expensive. An 1841 view of Venice, “Giudecca, La Donna della Salute and San Giorgio,” sold in April 2006 at Christie’s, New York, for $35.9 million, at the time a record for a British painting at auction.
“He’s one of the few artists who transcends the field of British paintings,” said Moore-Gwyn. “There’s a real chance that the painting will appeal to people who have never bought in this area.”
A canvas that is thought to be Turner’s last view of Rome was a desirable subject, and the painting was in unusually well-preserved condition for a work by the artist, said Moore-Gwyn. It has never been restored and has a low estimate of 12 million pounds.
“These trophy assets really do well,” said Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the London-based Fine Art Fund. “There are still huge amounts of cash sitting in bank accounts waiting for something to do and there aren’t many opportunities to buy magnificent paintings from old provenances.”
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)