Joseph Wright of Derby painting sets artist record

Sotheby’s just set a new record for a painting by British artist Joseph Wright of Derby.

The work headlined an old master evening sale on December 6, achieving £7.2m ($9.6m) – more than double its £3.5m ($4.6m) estimate.

Titled An Academy by Lamplight (1769), the work shows a scene of art students burning the midnight oil.

Joseph Wright Candlelight

The canvas shows a group of painters working by candlelight 

Wright was an unusual figure in the art world of the time. He was a passionate devotee of the Enlightenment and mixed with scientists and engineers.

Much of his work chronicles these heady years of discovery.

Julian Gascoigne, Sotheby’s senior specialist on British painting, said: “Joseph Wright of Derby is one of a small and select group of British eighteenth-century artists whose work transcends national boundaries and speaks to a wider global sensibility...

“With its overt reference to the classical legend of Pygmalion, and the transformative power of art, this is one of the most important works by the artist to come to the market in recent years and we look forward to presenting it to collectors around the world."

John Constable’s The Opening of Waterloo Bridge, seen from Whitehall Stairs (1817) made £2.2m ($3m).

That's a healthy increase on the £1.5m ($2m) valuation.

The work is a sketch for Constable’s celebrated depiction of this event.

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