Frith’s Fortune Teller painting reaches £20k in North Yorkshire auction

Amongst a host of outstanding lots in the British, European and Sporting Art Sale on March 19 at Tennants Auctioneers was ‘The Fortune Teller’ by William Powell Frith, which sold for £20,000 (plus buyer’s premium).

By Gemma Jimmison
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 10:34 am

William Powell Frith, one of the greatest painters of the social scene, was born near Ripon, the son of a Harrogate hotelier. He excelled in capturing a broad cross-section of Victorian society from streetsweepers to the nobility in teaming panoramic scenes filled with beautifully observed detail.

Vigorous bidding secured excellent prices for a notable offering of portraiture, figurative and genre works in the sale.

Selling well above estimate was an enigmatic and ethereal depiction of Cordelia, the youngest of King Lear’s three daughters, by Thomas Frank Dicksee, which sold for £13,000.

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An atmospheric interior with an elegant standing figure, possibly depicting a lady of Pompeii, by Jean-Baptist (James) Bertrand sold for £9,000, and a charming portrait of a Belle Epoque lady by the Circle of Sir Hubert Von Herkomer sold for £5,000.

Interesting early portraits included a c.1630 ‘Portrait of a Shepherdess’ by the Circle of Salomon de Bray (sold for £6,000), and a ‘Portrait of a Noblewoman’ by a Follower of Marcus Gheeraerts (sold for £4,500). A circa 1700 French School depiction of ‘Christ Displaying his Wounds to his Disciples’ also sold well at £8,000.

There was a strong international interest in the sale, with bidders drawn by two artists from the Pre-Raphaelite circle; John Roddam Spencer Stanhope’s ‘Autumn’ sold for top estimate at £8,000, and Thomas Matthew Rookes’ ‘Autumn Leaves’ after J.E. Millais’, sold for £4,500.

European bidders helped secure hammer prices well above estimate for ‘Toledo, S.Juan de los Reyes’, attributed to Genaro Perez Villamil (sold for £12,500), and ‘Fishing Boats Off a Rocky Outcrop’ by Franz Ludwig Catel (sold for £17,000).

Highlights amongst the British paintings in the sale included the charming ‘Bathers, Walberswick’ by the ever-popular William Kay Blacklock, which sold for £15,000, and a dreamy interwar architectural portrait of ‘Pilgrims Hall, Essex’ by Rex Whistler, which sold for £6,500.

Consistently high prices were also achieved for all the works by Herbert Royle in the sale, including the top lot ‘In the Evening Light’, which sold for £4,200.

Finally, the sporting section of the sale was led by equestrian bronzes, with a quarter-size maquette of the legendary Arkle, ridden by Pat Taaffe by Emma MacDermott selling for £5,500, and ‘Galloping’ by Siobhan Bulfin selling for £2,600.

The sale achieved a total hammer price of £274,790 with an 88% sold rate for 141 lots.

At an earlier sale - the 20th Century Design Sale on February 26 - a rare Martin Brothers’ ‘Wally Bird’ jar made in 1902 sold for £15,000 (plus buyer’s premium).

Martin Brothers is one of the most significant names in the history of British pottery, but it is their iconic ‘Wally Birds’ for which they are best remembered.

Robert Wallace Martin created stoneware tobacco jars and covers in the form of anthropomorphic birds, standing erect and full of character with sly expressions or mischievous grins. Often the birds represented figures from Victorian society, from barristers and admirals to urchins off the street.

That sale achieved a total hammer price of £174,509 for 245 lots, and a 94% sold rate.

Full results for both sales are available at: Tennants Auctioneers is a fourth-generation family business and is one of the UK’s largest international Antiques and Fine Art auctioneers.

Situated in Leyburn, Tennants holds more than 80 sales a year.