Studio of Joseph Highmore (London 1692-1780 Canterbury) Portrait of General James Wolfe standing in a landscape, the Plains of Abraham at Quebec behind him, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6cm (50 x 40in). Sold for £400,800. photo Bonhams

LONDON.- Bonhams Old Master Paintings auction made £3,403,920 this afternoon with a packed saleroom and numerous telephone bidders. The highlight was the sale of the last privately owned portrait of General James Wolfe - the soldier from Kent who conquered Canada - which sold to a Canadian buyer for £400,800.

Wolfe led the British assault on Quebec in 1759, with the resulting Battle of the Plains of Abraham (or the Battle of Quebec) being one of the most celebrated events in British military history and a pivotal victory in the Seven Years’ War. He was mortally wounded during the battle and died on the field, yet his victory earned him posthumous fame and it proved to be a deciding moment in the conflict between France and Britain. The portrait is attributed to the Circle of Joseph Highmore.

PROVENANCE: Williams Collection, Scorrier House, Cornwall, circa 1860, and thence by descent to the present owner

LITERATURE: J.F. Kerslake, 'The Likeness of Wolfe' in Quebec House (ed.), Wolfe: Portraiture & Genealogy 1759-1959 (Westerham, 1959), ill. pl. 9 and detail pl. 112, pp. 29-31
Dan Snow, 'Lone Wolfe' in Bonhams Magazine (London, Summer 2010 Issue 23), pp. 24-7, ill. p. 24

Traditionally given, according to family tradition, to Sir Joshua Reynolds, the present portrait is a posthumous depiction of Wolfe, said to have been painted according to more recent opinions between 1760 and 1780. It seems to relate most closely to the portrait in the National Archives of Canada which has been attributed to Joseph Highmore, and according to an old inscription given a date of 1742. This in turn appears to be, like many known relatively early portraits of the military hero, based on a portrait of Wolfe as a young man from the circle of Highmore that is at Squerryes Court. This explains why Wolfe is still wearing ensign's uniform (the slit cuffs came in in 1745 and the lace edging had largely gone out by 1760 and was banned in 1764) even though he is being depicted here at the Siege of Quebec in 1759. Of this group of portraits derived from Highmore the present painting is the last to remain in private hands and appears to be the only version to depict Quebec.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham (or the Battle of Quebec) is one of the most celebrated events in British military history and a pivotal victory in the Seven Years' War (which is known as the French and Indian War in the United States). The confrontation, which began on 13 September 1759, was fought between the British Army and Navy, and the French Army, on a plateau just outside the walls of Quebec City (see fig. 1). Wolfe led the British troops up precipitous wooded cliffs, taking with them the all important cannon at night, so that the French awoke to be confronted by the British on the plains in front of Quebec. The culmination of a three-month siege by the British, the battle lasted less than fifteen minutes and involved less than 10,000 troops on both sides. Wolfe's troops successfully resisted the column advance of the French under Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm, using new tactics that proved extremely effective against standard military formations used in most large European conflicts. Both generals were mortally wounded during the battle; Wolfe died on the field within minutes of engagement and Montcalm died the next morning. The battle proved to be a deciding moment in the conflict between France and Britain over the fate of New France. Within four years, nearly all of France's possessions in eastern North America would be ceded to Great Britain, establishing the later creation of Canada.

Wolfe was renowned by his troops for being demanding on himself and them. His last victory earned him posthumous fame, most notably celebrated in Benjamin West's epic canvas of 1771, The Death of General Wolfe (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), which became one of the most frequently reprinted images of the period, selling thousands of engravings. At this time Wolfe's heroic reputation was second to none until Nelson's equally pyrrhic victory at Trafalgar forty-six years later.

The top selling lot of the day was ‘A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, snowdrops, lilies, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects’. Painted on copper by Jan van Kessel the Elder, it sold for £804,000. His pendant, A still life of tulips, irises, apple blossom, roses, convolvulus, gooseberries and other flowers in a glass vase with shells, caterpillars, a dragonfly and other insects , by  Jan van Kessel the Elder and from the same collection was unsold for a presale estimate of £800,000 - 1,200,000.


Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679), A still life of tulips, a crown imperial, snowdrops, lilies, irises, roses and other flowers in a glass vase with a lizard, butterflies, a dragonfly and other insects, signed and dated 'J v Kessel fecit/1652' (lower right), oil on copper, 78.7 x 60.5cm (31 x 23 13/16in). Sold for £804,000. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: Count de Villalcazar de Sirga and thence by descent to the present owner

Viage de España, en que se da noticia de las
cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella

(Madrid, 1794), vol. XVIII, pp. 235-236
M-L. Hairs, Les Peintres flamands des Fleurs au XVIIe siècle
(Brussels, 1985), p. 296

The compositions of the present painting and the following lot belong to an original series of paintings executed around 1652. It is believed from a set of engravings that once belonged to the owner's family that there were sixteen flower still lifes painted in eight different vases. The present and following panel appear to be the largest of this series which otherwise range in size from 76 x 59 cm. to 77.5 x 60 cm. The series includes five 'pairs' of identical vases/glasses and pedestals/tables (like these) and one (that probably lost its pendant) in a plain porcelain vase. These paintings exceed in scale and ambition anything else that the artist ever attempted. Two of these paintings from the same collection were sold in these rooms on the 14 December, 1999: lot 77, A still life of flowers in a blue and white porcelain vase (sold for £749, 500) and lot 78, A still life of flowers in a roemer on a stone pedestal (sold for £639,500). Lot 77 appears to have been a pendant to a similar composition, signed and dated 1652, of almost identical dimensions and painted on copper in the Heinz family collection (see I. Bergstrom in the catalogue of the exhibition, Still Life of the Golden Age, Northern European Paintings from the Heinz family collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 14 May - 13 Dec, 1989, cat. no. 21, p. ill. 112). Four other paintings from the series are also illustrated (see I. Bergstrom, op. cit., p. 113, figs. 2,3,4). Two further examples of these paintings were sold at Christie's, New York, 31 May 1991: lot 86, Flowers in a glass vase with a caterpillar and a beetle on a ledge (sold for $495,000) and lot 87, Flowers in a Chinese Transitional blue and white jardinière (sold after the sale).

Records show that the paintings of this series were all originally in a Spanish private collection. Bergstrom argued that 'although we do not know what van Kessel the Elder painted for Philip IV, it is tempting to assign the series of eight [sic] monumental flower pieces on solid copper plates, which surpass in size by far his pictures of bouquets to that circumstance. The number and size of these pictures leads one to believe that they were commissioned by an important patron' (Bergstrom, loc. cit., p. 113). Although Jan van Kessel the Younger is recorded as staying in Madrid, where he became court painter to Philip IV, it is not recorded that Jan van Kessel the Elder travelled to Spain. It appears, however, that this series formed a commission for a major Spanish collector. A tradition of Flemish painting in Spain was firmly established by the mid-seventeenth century which stemmed from the strong links between Flanders and Spain encouraged by the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Bergstrom speculated that van Kessel was introduced to Philip IV by Daniel Seghers, his Antwerp contemporary and we know that Seghers had important Spanish patrons from his remaining inventories.


Jan van Kessel the Elder (Antwerp 1626-1679), A still life of tulips, irises, apple blossom, roses, convolvulus, gooseberries and other flowers in a glass vase with shells, caterpillars, a dragonfly and other insects, signed and dated 'J van Kessel fecit Anno 165?' (lower left), oil on copper, 79 x 60.5cm (31 1/8 x 23 13/16in). Estimate: £800,000 - 1,200,000, € 960,000 - 1,400,000, USD 1,200,000 - 1,700,000. Unsold. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: Count de Villalcazar de Sirga and thence by descent to the present owner

Viage de España, en que se da noticia de las
cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella

(Madrid, 1794), vol. XVIII, pp. 235-236
M-L. Hairs, Les Peintres flamands des Fleurs au XVIIe siècle
(Brussels, 1985), p. 296

Other highlights included beautiful painting of ‘A young boy making bubbles’ by Caspar Netscher which made £222,000 against a presale estimate of £60,000-80,000. Two works by Gaspar van Wittal were also popular with bidders. ‘An extensive view of Hoorn’ sold for £276,000 (estimate £25,000-35,000) and ‘A view of Amersfoort from the north’ fetched £180,000 (estimate £25,000-35,000). A Portrait of a lady, believed to be Mary Queen of Scots sold for £60,000.


Caspar Netscher (Heidelberg 1639-1684 The Hague), A young boy making bubbles, indistinctly signed and dated '1670' (lower centre) oil on panel, arched top, 11.2 x 8.4cm (4 7/16 x 3 5/16in). Sold for £222,000. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: Marquis de Voyer, by 1760
M. le Chevalier de Damery, by 1761
J.B. de Troy Sale, Remy, Paris, 9 April 1764, lot 66 (640 Francs)
Mademoiselle Clairon Sale, Paris, 5/15 March 1773, lot 1 (1201 Francs)
Randon de Boiset Sale, Remy, Paris, 3 February 1777, lot 44 (1800 Francs to Chariot, pour Millon Dailly)
Duc de Ch (oiseul or Chabot), Lebrun, Paris, 10 December 1778, lot 38 (2151 Francs to Lebrun)
Possibly Vincent Donjeux Sale, Lebrun/Paillet, Paris, 29 April 1793, lot 268 (1400 Francs, with pendant?)
Destouches Sale, Lebrun jeune/Julliot, Paris, 21 March 1794, lot 32 (1200 Francs to Saint Martin)
Didier-Michel de Saint Martin, Paillet, Paris, 8 May 1806, lot 38 (1200 Francs to Paillet)
Anna-Maria Hogguer-Ebeling, van der Schley, Roos and de Vries, Amsterdam, 18 August 1817, lot 60 (550 guilders to Nieuwenhuizen)
Madame le Rouge Sale, Laneuville Chariot, Paris, 27 April 1818 (3310 Francs to de la Haute)
George Watson Taylor, Wiltshire, by 1823
His Sale, Robins, London, 9 July 1832 (£157.10 to A. Baring)
Alexander Baring, first Baron Ashburton (1774-1848). On record 1833
By descent to Francis Baring, third Baron Ashburton (1800-1868), The Grange (according to Waagen) and thence by descent to the present owner

ENGRAVED: Johann Wille, 1761 as 'Le Petit Physicien' (some differences)

EXHIBITED: London, British Institute, 1823, no. 80

LITERATURE: J.B. Descamps, La Vie des Peintres Flamands, Allemands et Hollandais (Paris, 1753-64), vol. 3, p. 83 (as in Voyer Collection)
J.B.P. Lebrun, Galerie des Peintres Flamands, Hollandais et Allemands (Paris and Amsterdam 1792-96), vol. 2, p. 84, sm. 16
G.F. Waagen, Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris (Berlin, 1837-39), vol. 2, p. 88
G.K. Nagler, Neues Allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon (Munich, 1835-52), vol. 2, p. 88
J. Immerzeel Jr., De levens en wercken der Hollandsche en Bouwmeesters van het begin der vijftiende eeuw tot heden (Amsterdam, 1842-43)
G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain (London, 1854-57), vol. 2, pp. 104, 105
C. Blanc, Le Trésor de la Curiosité tiré des Catalogues de Vente (Paris, 1857-8), vol. 2, p. 228
F. Kugler and G.F. Waagen, Handbook of Painting: The German, Flemish and Dutch Schools (London, 1860), vol. 2, p. 369
C. Blanc, Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles (Paris, 1863), vol. 2, p. 369
A. von Wurzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexicon (Vienna and Leipzig, 1906-11), vol. 2, p. 229
C. Hofstede de Groot, A Catalogue Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1913), vol. 5, p. 171, no. 65

A version of the present work that was sold at Christie's in New York was mistakenly given to be the well-documented prime version of Netscher's celebrated composition (Christie's, New York, 26 May 2005, lot 33). However, the undoubted presence of the present painting in the collection of Alexander Baring, Lord Ashburton, from whom it was inherited by the current owner, testifies to the present work being that which was described by Hofstede de Groot.

The young boy resembles the child in Netscher's Mother's Pride in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and it has been suggested that he may be one of the artist's sons. There is an engraving, with some differences to the painting, by Johann Wille, dated 1761, entitled Le Petit Physicien, which bears a dedication 'à Monsieur Damery, d'àpres le tableau original de même Grandeur' (see fig. 1). Monsieur Damery was the owner of the picture at that time.

The fine rendering of textures and the arched format reflect the influence of the Leiden 'fine painters', such as Gerrit Dou and Frans van Mieries the Elder, which has been detected in Netscher's work from circa 1664-5 (compare, for example, his Two boys blowing bubbles in the National Gallery, London).


Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Utrecht circa 1653-1736 Rome), An extensive view of Hoorn, a carriage with the city's coat-of-arms, figures and livestock on the banks of the Ijsselmeer in the foreground, the Hoofdtoren, the Oosterkerk, Groterkerk and Noorderkerk beyond, signed 'GASP: VAN WiTEL' (on helm, lower left) and signed and dated 'Gasparo van Witel/1712' on reverse, gouache on panel, 26 x 47.5cm (10 1/4 x 18 11/16in). Sold for £276,000. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: The Matarazzo Collection, Brazil
In the present owner's collection for approximately 70 years

No oil paintings of Dutch views and only three such drawings by Vanvitelli are known to exist: one in the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, Rome, and two in the Certosa di San Martino, Naples (figs. 1 and 2). The present work and the following lot clearly relate to the latter two drawings. On the same scale and, in both cases, from the same viewpoint, the Naples drawings may well have served as initial sketches for the finished gouaches.

Vanvitelli left his native Netherlands, having completed his training with Mathias Withoos (Amersfoort 1627-1703 Hoorn), and is first recorded in Rome in January 1675. Both of the Naples drawings are on the reverse of sketches of Southern landscapes, which suggests that they were executed after his arrival in Italy. The same can also be said of the present gouaches, given the date of 1712 on the reverse of the view of Hoorn together with the fact that both views are clearly the work of an accomplished and confident hand. The Naples drawings have long been considered idealised views of Hoorn and Amersfoort as they are obviously from his Italian period but the degree of detail in these gouaches suggests that they were in fact based on much more careful observation, quite possibly in situ. Vanvitelli would have known both cities very well as he began his training with Withoos in his native Amersfoort and then in 1672, when the French occupied the city, he left with his master for Hoorn.


Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Utrecht circa 1653-1736 Rome), A view of Amersfoort from the north with various vessels on the River Eem in the foreground, the Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren (Tower of Our Lady) beyond, gouache on vellum, laid down on panel, 27 x 48cm (10 5/8 x 18 7/8in). Sold for £180,000. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: The Matarazzo Collection, Brazil
In the present owner's collection for approximately 70 years


English(?) School, circa 1580, Portrait of a lady, apparently representing Mary Queen of Scots, half-length, in black costume with a white lace collar, wearing a crucifix and holding the roses of York and Lancaster, oil on panel, 57.8 x 37.5cm (22 3/4 x 14 3/4in). Sold for £60,000. photo Bonhams

PROVENANCE: Said by the Ephron Gallery to have been brought to the United States in the nineteenth century by an English lady who was gifted the picture by a family of English officers, from whom possibly:
Purchased by Mr. C. E. Baillie of Glencoe, January 1882 (according to a label on the reverse)
Ephron Gallery, New York
Purchased from Ephron Gallery by Mrs. Redfield, circa 1940s
Alee B. Sanford, Jackson, Missouri
Acquired by Louise Sanford by descent in 1977
Bequeathed to Les Williams, Houston, Texas, by Louise Sanford
Purchased by the present owner from Les Williams in 1994

Until recently the present portrait was thought to represent Elizabeth I and a portrait purported to be of this Queen in the Museum Schloss Fasanerie bei Fulda has strong facial similarities (Flemish, circa 1580, oil on panel, 52 x 48 cm.); as does the better known Sieve or Siena Portrait (dated to circa 1580-83, attributed to Quinten Metsys the Younger in the Pinacoteca di Siena). There are, however, marked inconsistencies with the iconography that is associated with portraits of the English champion of Protestantism, most notably the prominent crucifix that she is wearing. The roses of York and Lancaster that the sitter is holding do, however, suggest a claim to the Tudor throne and interestingly, together with the collar, dress and crucifix, the composition relates to an image representing Elizabeth's cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, that was engraved by George Vertue in the early eighteenth century (see fig. 1). This was after an original painting that was purported to be by Federico Zuccaro (although more recent thinking has placed it in the circle of Alonso Sanchez Coello or alternatively Frans Pourbus II). While the subject for the original portrait of this engraving (known as the Carleton Portrait, now in the Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth) has been questioned, due to the fact that the crucifix was not original to the portrait, the discovery of the present portrait and the coincidence of certain elements of composition that were well known in the representation of Mary Queen of Scots, would indicate that there was indeed a sixteenth century original for this particular composition, whose iconography was associated with the Catholic claimant to the English throne.

The fruitwood panel, gypsum ground and X-radiography (indicating an earlier portrait of a mother and child beneath the present portrait), all suggest a Spanish origin for the panel. While the only portraits from the period of Mary's captivity that are believed to have been taken from life are two portrait miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard, which must date from his return to England from France some time between August 1578 and April, 1579, there is documentary evidence that portraits of the Queen were in circulation at this time among her friends and supporters. In January 1575 Mary had written to James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, her envoy in France: 'There are some friends in this country who ask for my portrait. I pray you, have four of these made, which must be set in gold, and sent to me secretly ...' (see Helen Smailes, The Queen's Image, a celebration of Mary Queen of Scots, exhibition catalogue (Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 39-40). A further letter from the 31 August from her secretary, Claude Nau, at Sheffield Castle to the Archbishop in France states: 'I had hoped to send with the present portrait of her Majesty, but the painter was not able to bring it to perfection before this despatch; it will come with the next.' A further image of the Queen was engraved in a political tract of 1578 by John Lesley, Bishop of Ross. It has been suggested that this must have been copied in Innsbruck from a likeness of the Queen that Lesley took with him on his political mission. This image, which shows a more elongated face for the Queen, appears to have been the foundation for a number of life-size portraits which bear the date 1578 and are collectively know as the Sheffield series. Although it has been argued that these paintings dated from the Jacobean period, in his recent article for the Burlington Magazine, Jeremy L. Smith argues that such images must have had an earlier source and could not have served any political purpose for the Queen's son, James I. Such a blatantly Roman Catholic-tinged image, replete with the Queen's dynastic claims would never have been suitable for James's purpose of rehabilitating the reputation of Mary in the anti-Catholic aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. Indeed, the same might be said of a medal by Jacopo Primavera showing the Queen in profile and inscribed 'MARIA STOVVAR REGI SCOTI ANGLI IA. PRIMAVE'. The reference to her being Queen of England would once more suggest that it was cast during her lifetime (see Helen Smailes, p. 42).

Following Sir Roy Strong's widely accepted theory concerning the political purposes of royal portraiture in this period, it is not so much the physical appearance of the sitter that is of first importance, especially given the difference in the way in which Mary's face was shown in early depictions, but rather the political message such a portrait had to offer. The period surrounding 1578 would therefore seem a likely date for the image of a pious Catholic queen, claiming her right to rule to be circulated among her supporters. This was precisely the time that a powerful alliance of Roman Catholic forces was beginning to rally, culminating in Philip II of Spain launching the Armada in 1588 in the year following Mary's execution (see Jeremy L. Smith, 'Revisiting the origins of the Sheffield series of portraits of Mary Queen of Scots', The Burlington Magazine, vol. CLII, number 1285 (April, 2010), pp. 212-218).

Andrew Mckenzie, Head of Bonhams Old Master Paintings Department comments, “We were absolutely delighted with the results today and it was particularly exciting to handle a portrait of such historical importance. Among my early schoolboy memories is being taught about Wolfe’s celebrated victory at Quebec. Rarely does one have the opportunity to sell a major portrait of such a momentous historical figure.”