Art seller enjoys £20k early Christmas

Bonhams held an old master auction in Knightsbridge, London on Wednesday (October 28). Most of the lots were by artists inspired or schooled by the great masters, with works estimated at around £2,000-3,000.

However, as the recent discovery of a formerly-unkown Leonardo da Vinci artwork demonstrated, these 'low-key' auctions can be the kind of places where surprise gems emerge.

And a couple of bidders believe that's exactly what they've found in an 18th century Spanish Nativity scene. Listed with a lower estimate of just £2,000, the painting was finally won for the princely sum of £20,000.


18th century Spanish Nativity scene
18th century Spanish Nativity scene (20k)

The piece was the most successful sale in a healthy auction, with several lots pressing past their expected sale prices.


A garden banquet scene in the style of the 17th century Dutch painter Dirk Haarls doubled its £5,000-7,000 estimate to sell for £11,040, while a portrait of a morose man in a bright red hat influenced by 15th century German Hans Memling more than tripled its lower £4,000 valuation, selling for £13,200.

The top performer, behind the Nativity scene, was another religious painting: that of a repentant Mary Magdalene, leafing through a text resting against a skull.

It is listed as being the work of a follower of Doménikos Theotokópoulos (nicknamed simply El Greco - the Greek) and trounced its estimate of £4,000-6,000 to go under the hammer for £14,400.

The sale continues to indicate that the art market is picking up again after slowing in the recession, as recent sales - for example at Christie's - have indicated.

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