Sleeper Alert!

January 27 2021

Image of Sleeper Alert!


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Over the past few days social media has experienced a flurry of posts and pictures featuring the painting above. Catalogued as '18th century Italian School', the work finally made £100,000 (hammer price) over its £400 - £600 estimate today at Reeman Dansie in Colchester, Essex. Indeed, online bidding had already passed the £20,000 mark yesterday evening with 122 profiles watching the lot.

This beautiful work is surely a sketch by Mary Beale (1633-1699), whose brilliant and intimate portraits of her children have become rather desirable over the past decade. Two such comparable sketches are in the collection of Tate Britain. Another portrait of one of her sons sold for £93,750 (inc. commission) at Sotheby's in 2019.

Update - A reader has written with the following comment:

There was a very similar one, overlooked in Adam Partridge a couple of years ago which made about £15,800 plus fees. Of course, the new one is a charming image but how to account for such a price?

This is quite true, the aforementioned full-catalogued Sotheby's picture made a rather top-end price for similar work a mere two years ago. One wonders whether it was acquired by a dealer or collector. However as the old saying goes, nothing sells quite like a sleeper!

Update 2 - A reader has pointed out that the aforementioned Sotheby's picture is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

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