A previously unknown Portrait of a gentleman by the Spanish artist Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660) sold for £3million today (Wednesday 7th December 2011) in the Old Master Paintings auction at Bonhams
, 101 New Bond Street, London. The sale total was £6,329,500.
Andrew Mckenzie, Director of Old Master Paintings at Bonhams, comments, This is a portrait of outstanding quality which has the most extraordinary presence. To have worked so closely with it has been a wonderful experience and a highlight of my career.
In August 2010 a number of works by the nineteenth century British artist, Matthew Shepperson, were consigned for sale at Bonhams Oxford office. Among these works was a portrait of a gentleman, which was brought to the attention of the Old Master Paintings department in London who advised the Oxford saleroom to withdraw it from sale for further investigation.
The stylistic similarities to works by the great Spanish master led to extensive research by the department and consultant Brian Koetser; their views were confirmed by Dr Peter Cherry, Professor of Art History at the University of Dublin and one of the worlds foremost authorities on Velázquez and his school. In an article published in the Spanish arts magazine ARS, Cherry writes the particularized likeness and recognisably lifelike texture, weight and colours of the fleshy face speak of the actual encounter between subject and painter; while the style and technical brilliance of the representation itself betrays its author.
Many experts were consulted about the painting, and technical analysis and an x-radiograph further confirm the attribution to Velázquez.
A second lost masterpiece of considerable importance offered today was Three peaches on a stone ledge with a Painted Lady butterfly by the Dutch artist Adriaen Coorte, which sold for £2.1million, setting a new world record price for the artist at auction and smashing the pre-sale estimate of £300,000-500,000. This previously unrecorded painting is an interesting addition to Coorte's oeuvre. It belongs to a group of still lifes, all undated, which are signed with initials only. Compositionally this group is very close to another recently discovered painting, of 1693, which allows a dating of 1693-95 for the Bonhams picture and the rest of the initialled group.