Wednesday 30th June 2021 - Belle Gait
A stunning historical painting sold for almost a quarter of a million pounds last month.
Trevanion Auctioneers are celebrating today after beating their own in-house record. The sale last month saw this rare 17th-century painting sell for almost a quarter of a million pounds!
The controversial painting, a double portrait from circa 1650, is fascinating for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it depicts a black woman sat alongside, and not subservient to a white woman, both of whom have patches upon their faces.
Christina Trevanion, managing partner at the firm of auctioneers, said, "We have to put this painting into the context of when it was created, we need to take ourselves back to 1650's England when we were under the rule of Cromwell's Puritanical Government. Face patches have been used since ancient times for purely practical purposes to cover up scars and blemishes. However, in the mid 17th century, some men were outraged by the way women dressed and wore make up. In 1650 parliament debated whether to pass an act against the vice of painting and wearing black patches, and immodest dress of women. The bill did not make it to law but had some popular support. The implication was that a 'patched woman' had something to hide, which may have been as innocent as a birthmark or smallpox scar, but she could also be hiding something much more sinister, perhaps a syphilis scar or other sexually transmitted diseases. The association of patches with sexual immorality, deceit and aristocratic affectation was everything Cromwell and his Puritan government sought to outlaw."
This painting gives the viewer a fantastic insight into gender, politics, gender hierarchy and typical society in England in the 1600s. The image appears to hearken from the 1650's judging by the sitters' dress, jewellery, and hairstyles. The style of the sitters seems to be that of the Interregnum when the height of fashion meant dress bodices were off the shoulder and low cut. Hair was worn in loose waves at the shoulders; the remaining hair would be drawn together at the back of the head. Pearl necklaces and matching earrings were another typical feature of the period.
Following a significant amount of publicity before the sale, the auctioneers saw fierce interest in the painting from around the world, ranging from private buyers in the US to buyers here in the UK. The international fine art market elite were all squabbling for the chance to own this historical portrait.
On the day, an intense bidding battle ensued, led by auctioneer Ashley Jones. The hammer finally fell to a UK telephone bidder for a mind-blowing £220,000 (plus 20% buyer's premium).
"For all UK business owners, the last 15 months have proved incredibly challenging, responding to an ever-changing global crisis, and it has been wonderful to get back to our role of doing what we do best," said Christina. "As one of our valued clients said this evening 'the sale of this painting puts Trevanion Auctioneers in the upper echelons of UK auctioneers', I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved here, and I look forward to seeing where we go in the next year."
Trevanion Auctioneers are currently welcoming entries for their next auction, due to be held on 28th July 2021.