Object lessons

Object Lessons: the best of London Art Week

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From a miracle scene seized by Nazis to a pensive painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, our pick of highlights from this week's auctions and fairs

Joseph Wright of Derby likely created this work as a study for The Hermit (around 1769, also known as A Philosopher by Lamplight, now in the Derby Museum). It was originally purchased in a posthumous studio sale by Richard Arkwright Junior, Wright’s great patron famously known as “the richest commoner in England”. The study is from Wright’s celebrated early period of candlelit paintings, and temporary export bans have been placed on two such works from the late 1760s in the past two years. The bar on the first, An Academy by Lamplight (1769)—sold for a record £7.3m (with fees) at Sotheby’s in December 2017—has since been lifted. The second, Two Boys with a Bladder (1768-1770), valued at £3.5m, still awaits a verdict from the Arts Council England.
Joseph Wright of Derby, Study of a Philosopher (around 1765-69). Old Masters Evening Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 4 December. Estimate: £200,000-£300,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s

Joseph Wright of Derby likely created this work as a study for The Hermit (around 1769, also known as A Philosopher by Lamplight, now in the Derby Museum). It was originally purchased in a posthumous studio sale by Richard Arkwright Junior, Wright’s great patron famously known as “the richest commoner in England”. The study is from Wright’s celebrated early period of candlelit paintings, and temporary export bans have been placed on two such works from the late 1760s in the past two years. The bar on the first, An Academy by Lamplight (1769)—sold for a record £7.3m (with fees) at Sotheby’s in December 2017—has since been lifted. The second, Two Boys with a Bladder (1768-1770), valued at £3.5m, still awaits a verdict from the Arts Council England.

Giovanni di Paolo, Saint Clare rescuing the shipwrecked (around 1455-60). Old Masters Evening Sale, Christie’s, London, 3 December. Estimate: £1.5m-£2m. Courtesy of Christie’s

This panel by the Sienese painter Giovanni di Paolo is one of four predellas designed to accompany a panel of Saint Claire in an altarpiece that now sits in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena. Another predella from the same series is also included in this sale (est £600,000-£800,000). Both were seized by the Nazis from the collection of the Jewish telecommunications magnate Harry Fuld. Sold to the Bode Museum in Berlin in 1940, they were restituted back to Fuld’s family earlier this year. Should this work sell, it will likely make a record for the Quattrocento master, which currently stands at $885,750 and was achieved in 2001 at Sotheby’s New York.

Thomas Moran, Mount Superior, as viewed from Alta, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah (around 1879). Ben Elwes Fine Art during London Art Week, various venues, 1-6 December. $500,000. Courtesy Ben Elwes Fine Art

Ben Elwes Fine Art has pulled together a group of Anglo-American works for its exhibition for the winter edition of London Art Week. Exemplifying the transatlantic Artistic Relationships theme is this en plein air watercolour by the US artist Thomas Moran, which was owned by John Ruskin. The two became friends in 1882 when Moran, who was known for his depictions of the American West, visited the UK. It was left to Ruskin’s cousin Joan Ruskin Agnew, then was in a UK private collection where it remained until last year when it entered a US collection.