Sold at £35,000: MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, painted by John Brett ARA (British 1831-1902), oil on canvas, signed and dated 1884.

140-year-old painting of iconic Scottish landmark sells for £35,000 in Lichfield auction

A DRAMATIC bidding battle at The Lichfield Auction Centre for a Victorian oil painting of an iconic Scottish landmark culminated in the work selling for £35,000.

MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, painted by John Brett ARA (British 1831-1902) in 1884, was the last lot of the day on Monday, May 20, and finally sold to a phone bidder after strong competition in the room and online.

The 42ins by 84ins oil on canvas was amongst a treasure trove of eclectic antiques curated by a Staffordshire family over 50 years, all going under the hammer with Richard Winterton Auctioneers over two days this week.

Signed and dated 1884, the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy when it was sold for the first time that year, and the original receipt was included with the work at auction this week.

Senior valuer Sarah Williams with MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, by John Brett.
Senior valuer Sarah Williams with MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, by John Brett.

After the upcoming sale was announced, John Brett’s great-grandson Charles Brett contacted Richard Winterton Auctioneers to volunteer more information on the 140-year-old painting.

“John Brett acquired the 210-ton schooner Viking from the Earl of Caledon in January 1883, with the intention of using her as a floating studio,” he revealed.

“In June that year he set off, with his wife and seven children and the crew of 12, on an epic voyage which took them up the west coast of the British Isles, round the north of Scotland, and down the east coast, ending up at Brightlingsea, after many adventures, in mid-October.

“As they went he sketched from a specially constructed deck-house.

MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, painted by John Brett ARA (British 1831-1902), oil on canvas, signed and dated 1884.
MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, is a 42ins by 84ins oil on canvas in its fine original frame.

“By the end of August they had reached the Isle of Skye, and the entry in the ship’s log for September 1 records: ‘Many pencil sketches & sketch of Macleod’s Maidens’.

“Close observation from the boat enabled Brett to capture this unique view of the curious natural phenomena, with their semi-human forms.

“The sketches were later worked up into the oil picture in Brett’s Harley Street studio in time for the 1884 Academy Summer Exhibition.”

There it was sold through the dealer Agnew to cotton manufacturer TJ Hirst of Meltham Hall, Huddersfield, for £800.

The Grange was built in 1926 and industrialist Fred Cooper moved in with his family 1969.
Already in situ at The Grange, MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye was purchased along with the property when the Cooper family moved in in 1969.

“After Hirst’s death in 1927, his widow remained at the hall until her own death in 1944, when the contents of the house, which comprised more than 1,000 lots, presumably including this work, were sold at auction,” said Mr Brett.

“The fine original frame is typical of those made for the artist by Dolman & Son of New Compton Street, Soho.”

He added: “I was delighted to see the work did so well in the sale.

“It is very beautiful and it was wonderful to see it after it had been unaccounted for since it was originally sold 140 years ago.”

Auctioneer Richard Winterton selling MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye by John Brett for £35,000.
The hammer goes down at £35,000.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton, who yielded the gavel for the sale, said: “We’re very grateful to Charles Brett for getting in touch with us and supplying extra information on his great-grandfather’s magnificent painting.

“The work proved to be a highlight amongst highlights, fetching an appropriately impressive hammer price for a marvellous large work of art.

“The exceptional provenance of the painting, which even included the original receipt when it was sold for the first time in 1884, meant it exceeded all our expectations at auction.”

A video of the sale of the painting can be watched on Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/reel/364652509928110.

Industrialist Fred Cooper and his family moved into The Grange in 1969. Pictured are Fred and his wife Betty.
Fred and Betty Cooper.

Catalogued across more than 150 lots on Monday and Tuesday, May 20-21, auctioneers said the contents of The Grange, Perton, evoked the history and quality of a bygone lifestyle.

Built in 1926, industrialist Fred Cooper and his family moved into the property in 1969 and it remained the Cooper home until Fred’s wife Betty passed away earlier this year aged 92.

Fred died in 1990, just short of his 68th birthday.

The Brett oil was the largest painting in the Cooper collection. Already in situ at The Grange, it was purchased along with the property when the family moved in.

A William and Mary walnut veneered longcase clock of one month duration, by Samuel Stretch of Bristol, c.1730, estimated at £1,000 to £1,500.
The walnut veneered longcase clock of one month duration, by Samuel Stretch of Bristol, circa 1730, sold at £1,800.

Other art sold on Monday included a Dutch landscape in the manner of Aelbert Cuyp, fetching £4,200.

The furniture section featured a late 19th century Louis XVI style kingwood, ebony and marquetry inlaid centre table, making £1,350, and a 19th century ebonized and gilt brass credenza, sold at £1,300.

Clocks included a veneered longcase clock of one month duration by Samuel Stretch of Bristol circa 1730, sold at £1,800, and a 1973 Dent reproduction of an ingenious Congreve Rolling Ball Clock, sold at £1,050.

Further highlights from The Grange were an Edward VII silver desk stand used by the Prince of Wales in 1923 on a visit to Wolverhampton Town Hall, sold at £1,050.

This Edward VII silver desk stand is inscribed that it was used in 1923 by The Prince of Wales, who was later Edward VIII and then, following his abdication, the Duke of Windsor.
Sold for £1,050: The silver desk stand used in 1923 by the future Duke of Windsor.

Later the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales in 1923 went on to become Edward VIII and abdicated the throne in 1936 after ruling for less than a year so as to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Other popular lots in the auction included a Victorian burr walnut games compendium, sold at £500, and a late 19th century Meissen clock fetching £750, with Meissen figure groups selling for hundreds of pounds each.

Mr Winterton added: “It was clear from his collection that Fred Cooper had a keen eye for classical pieces and a passion for history and the arts, as well as a keen sense of humour and unconventional attitude.

“The stunning and eclectic array of furniture, paintings and antiques he carefully curated were of wide and varied taste yet always erring on the side of quality.

A matching set of four silver candlesticks and candelabrum from a selection of silver in the auction.
This matching set of four silver candlesticks and candelabrum totalled £1,900 at auction.

“This quality has been underlined by the huge amount of interest this auction has attracted and we’re delighted for our client at the quantity of impressive hammer prices achieved.”

Further lots in the sale from different vendors included three autograph albums signed by film and TV actors, music stars and sports personalities totalling £2,300, two boxes of silver coins fetching £4,500 and a lady’s Rolex Datejust selling at £1,800.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers offers free valuations of all types of items at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park. To arrange an appointment, telephone 01543 251081 or email to office@richardwinterton.co.uk.

Home visits for large collections and house clearance quotations are also available.

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