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ART SALES

Robert, who died on crusade in 1250. His son, Robert II., took part in the wars in Navarre, Sicily, Guienne and Flanders, and was killed at the battle of Courtrai in 1302. After his death, his son Philip having predeceased him (1298), Artois was adjudged to his daughter Mahaut, or Matilda, as against her nephew Robert, son of Philip, who attempted to support his claim to the countship by forged titles. Banished from France for this crime (1322), Robert of Artois took refuge in England, where he became earl of Richmond, and incited Edward III. to make war upon Philip of Valois. His descendants, the counts of Eu (q.v.), continued to style themselves counts of Artois. By the marriage of Mahaut (d. 1329) with Otto IV., Artois passed to the house of Burgundy, in whose possession it remained till the marriage of Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold, to the archduke Maximilian brought it to the house of Austria. Louis XI., however, occupied portions of Artois, and the claims of Austria were contested by France until the treaty of Senlis (1493). The emperor Charles V. established the council of Artois, with sovereign authority. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War Artois was again conquered by the French, and the conquest was ratified in the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) by Spain, to whom the province had fallen in 1634. During the war between France and Holland (1672-77) and that of the Spanish Succession. Artois was invaded again, but the treaties of Nijmwegen (1678) and of Utrecht (1713) confirmed the sovereignty of France. The title of count of Artois was borne by Charles X. of France before his accession to the throne. This new creation became extinct on the death of the comte de Chambord in 1883.

ART SALES. The practice of selling objects of art by auction in England dates from the latter part of the 17th century, when in most cases the names of the auctioneers were suppressed. Evelyn (under date June 21, 1693) mentions a “great auction of pictures (Lord Melford’s) in the Banquetting House, Whitehall,” and the practice is frequently referred to by other contemporary and later writers. Before the introduction of regular auctions the practice was, as in the case of the famous collection formed by Charles I., to price each object and invite purchasers, just as in other departments of commerce. But this was a slow process, especially in the case of pictures, and lacked the incentive of excitement. The first really important art collection to come under the hammer was that of Edward, earl of Oxford, dispersed by Cock, under the Piazza, Covent Garden, on 8th March 1741/2 and the five following days, six more days being required by the coins. Nearly all the leading men of the day, including Horace Walpole, attended or were represented at this sale, and the prices varied from five shillings for an anonymous bishop’s “head” to 165 guineas for Vandyck’s group of “Sir Kenelm Digby, lady, and son.” The next great dispersal was Dr Richard Mead’s extensive collection, of which the pictures, coins and gems, &c., were sold by Langford in February and March 1754, the sale realizing the total, unprecedented up to that time, of £16,069. The thirty-eight days’ sale (1786) of the Duchess of Portland’s collection is very noteworthy, from the fact that it included the celebrated Portland vase, now in the British Museum. Many other interesting and important 18th-century sales might be mentioned. High prices did not become general until the Calonne, Trumbull (both 1795) and Bryan (1798) sales. As to the quality of the pictures which had been sold by auction up to the latter part of the 18th century, it may be assumed that this was not high. The importation of pictures and other objects of art had assumed extensive proportions by the end of the 18th century, but the genuine examples of the Old Masters probably fell far short of 1%. England was felt to be the only safe asylum for valuable articles, but the home which was intended to be temporary often became permanent. Had it not been for the political convulsions on the continent, England, instead of being one of the richest countries in the world in art treasures, would have been one of the poorest. This fortuitous circumstance had, moreover, another effect, in that it greatly raised the critical knowledge of pictures. Genuine works realized high prices, as, for example, at Sir William Hamilton’s sale (1801), when Beckford paid 1300 guineas for the little picture of “A Laughing Boy” by Leonardo da Vinci; and when at the Lafontaine sales (1807 and 1811) two Rembrandts each realized 5000 guineas, “The Woman taken in Adultery,” now in the National Gallery, and “The Master Shipbuilder,” now at Buckingham Palace. The Beckford sale of 1823 (41 days, £43,869) was the forerunner of the great art dispersal of the 19th century; Horace Walpole’s accumulation at Strawberry Hill, 1842 (24 days, £33,450), and the Stowe collection, 1848 (41 days, £75,562), were also celebrated. They comprised every phase of art work, and in all the quality was of a very high order. They acted as a most healthy stimulus to art collecting, a stimulus which was further nourished by the sales of the superb collection of Ralph Bernal in 1855 (32 days, £62,690), and of the almost equally fine but not so comprehensive collection of Samuel Rogers, 1856 (18 days, £42,367). Three years later came the dispersal of the 1500 pictures which formed Lord Northwick’s gallery at Cheltenham (pictures and works of art, 18 days, £94,722).

Towards the latter part of the first half of the 19th century an entirely new race of collectors gradually came into existence; they were for the most part men who had made, or were making, large fortunes in the various industries of the midlands and north of England and other centres. They were untrammelled by “collecting” traditions, and their patronage was almost exclusively extended to the artists of the day. The dispersals of these collections began in 1863 with the Bicknell Gallery, and continued at irregular intervals for many years, e.g. Gillott (1872), Mendel (1875), Wynn Ellis and Albert Levy (1876), Albert Grant (1877) and Munro of Novar (1878). These patrons purchased at munificent prices either direct from the easel or from the exhibitions not only pictures in oils but also water-colour drawings. As a matter of investment their purchases frequently realized far more than the original outlay; sometimes, however, the reverse happened, as, for instance, in the case of Landseer’s “Otter Hunt,” for which Baron Grant is said to have paid £10,000 and which realized shortly afterwards only 5650 guineas. One of the features of the sales of the ’seventies was the high appreciation of water-colour drawings. At the Gillott sale (1872) 160 examples realized £27,423, Turner’s “Bamborough Castle” fetching 3150 gns.; at the Quilter sale (1875) David Cox’s “Hayfield,” for which a dealer paid him 50 gns. in 1850, brought 2810 gns. The following are the most remarkable prices of later years. In 1895 Cox’s “Welsh Funeral” (which cost about £20) sold for 2400 gns., and Burne-Jones’s “Hesperides” for 2460 gns. In 1908, 13 Turner drawings fetched £12,415 (Acland-Hood sale) and 7 brought £11,077 (Holland sale), the “Heidelberg” reaching 4200 gns. For Fred Walker’s “Harbour of Refuge” 2580 gns. were paid (Tatham sale) and 2700 gns. for his “Marlow Ferry” (Holland). The demand for pictures by modern artists, whose works sold at almost fabulous prices in the ’seventies, has somewhat declined; but during all its furore there was still a small band of collectors to whom the works of the Old Masters more especially appealed. The dispersal of such collections as the Bredel (1875), Watts Russell (1875), Foster of Clewer Manor (1876), the Hamilton Palace (17 days, £397,562)—the greatest art sale in the annals of Great Britain—Bale (1882), Leigh Court (1884), and Dudley (1892) resulted, as did the sale of many minor collections each season, in many very fine works of the Old Masters finding eager purchasers at high prices. A striking example of the high prices given was the £24,250 realized by the pair of Vandyck portraits of a Genoese senator and his wife in the Peel sale, 1900.

Since the last quarter of the 19th century the chief feature in art sales has been the demand for works, particularly female portraits, by Reynolds, his contemporaries and successors. This may be traced to the South Kensington Exhibitions of 1867 and 1868 and the annual winter exhibitions at Burlington House, which revealed an unsuspected wealth and charm in the works of many English artists who had almost fallen into oblivion. A few of the most remarkable prices for such pictures may be quoted: Reynolds’s “Lady Betty Delmé” (1894), 11,000 gns.; Romney’s “The Ladies Spencer” (1896), 10,500 gns.;