Auctions | July 1, 2014

Original Chalk Drawings of Lost Artwork at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury

The original chalk drawings of two lost paintings by American portrait and history painter, Benjamin West, surface at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale of Old Masters & 19th Century Works on Paper on Thursday 24th July 2014.

The black chalk on buff paper of Moses, 1787, [Lot 12] and another of St. John the Baptist, 1787, [Lot 13] by Benjamin West (1738-1820) appear to be preparatory studies for two large-scale oil painting, Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent and St. John the Baptist, that West produced in the late 18th century.

Although the final paintings, along with two others, later served as the basis for the engraved illustration in Thomas Macklin’s Bible, published circa 1793, their current location is at present unknown.

Alongside Macklin’s engravings, these rare drawings provide the first real insight into how West’s lost paintings may have originally appeared. 

In The Paintings of Benjamin West Von Erffa and Stanley suggest that the two lost paintings may have formed the outer wings of a triptych centred around West’s The Resurrection, now held in St George’s Parish Church, Barbados.

Known in England as the ‘American Raphael’, West was a pioneer of historical painting, having studied under Gavin Hamilton and Anton Raphael Mengs in Rome.

He was the first painter in Britain to receive critical acclaim for featuring contemporary clothing in his historical canvases, was made charter member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and was appointed the official Royal history painter in 1772.

As one would expect, the composition of these drawings differ somewhat to Macklin’s illustrations, but the execution and style sit well when compared with the other grand and formidable compositions that West was producing following his contact with philosopher Edmund Burke in the 1780s (cf. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Head of a Screaming Man, 1792, no.1967,130.a)

Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent

St. John the Baptist

Both Est. £6,000-8,000 [Lot 12 and 13]


Elsewhere in the sale representing a strong watercolour section are a series of 26 finely executed views showing the town of Bridgnorth and village of Quartford in Shropshire, that offer a historical glimpse of the county during the 19th century.

The watercolours, dating from 1828-1830, were painted by artist and printmaker Joseph Powell for Mr John Smalman, an architect and Mayor of Quartford.

The views include one mounted on a manuscript sheet titled Pedigree of the Smalman Family of Kinnersley Castle, Co. Hereford, featuring the family tree of Mr John Smalman.

Smalman built and lived in Quartford Castle after his family moved from Kinnersley Castle in Herefordshire during the Civil War. Quatford had been an important crossing point of the River Severn until the building of a bridge to its north, which developed into the larger town of Bridgnorth.

A series of views of the town of Bridgnorth and village of Quartford. Est. £10,000-15,000 [Lot 97]

The sale will be held on Thursday 24th July at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in London’s Mayfair. The illustrated catalogue will be available to download and view online at

Further Highlights

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

Two sportsmen, one possibly Rowlandson, out shooting in Hengar Woods, West Camelford, watercolour, pen and ink, over pencil, inscribed in brown ink verso Hengar Wood, W. Camelford, Cornwall, circa 1795, 21 x 27 cm. (8 1/4 x 10 5/8 in) Provenance: Private collection, UK.

The current watercolour is directly comparable with Rowlandson's A Sportsman, possibly Rowlandson, with hounds setting out from Hengar House, Cornwall [cf. John Hayes, Rowlandson Watercolours and Drawings, 1972, repr. p. 19, fig. 6], and stylistically would appear to have been executed during the same stay at Hengar House. 

Hengar House, Cornwall, was the country estate of Matthew Michell (1751-1817), who apart from having 'an apparently insatiable appetite for Rowlandson's drawings, was [also] one of the artist's closest friends from the 1790s, until 1819, when he died', [John Hayes, Rowlandson Watercolours and Drawings, 1972, p. 7]. Est £3,000-5,000 [Lot 78]

Attributed to Wenceslaus Hollar

View showing The Battle of White Mountain, with the city of Prague beyond,

pen and black ink on laid paper, inscribed Qunadoq, Malo, medetur medijs centre, 100 x 190 mm. (4 x 7 1/2 in), unframed.

The subject of this finely detailed drawing was known to Hollar’s biographer, the late Richard T.  Godfrey, who identifies it as The Battle of White Mountain. The battle took place outside Prague in 1620, and marked the end of the Bohemian period of the Thirty Years' War, and ultimately influenced the Czech lands for the following 300 years. Hollar would have been aged only 14 or 15 when the event took place, and the drawing may show an early stage in the development of Hollars' microcosmic approach to draughtsmanship. Est. £2,000-3,000 [Lot 9]

James Gillray (1756-1815)        

The Gout, etching and aquatint, with hand-colouring, published by H. Humphrey 1799, [BM Satires 9448], 260 x 350 mm. (10 1/4 x 13 3/4 in), unframed. Est. £3,000-5,000 [Lot 223]

W. Lewis (Publisher)

A Collection of Two Hundred Original Etchings,

consisting of 7 by Rembrandt; 11 after Rembrant by Vivares; 25 by Claude; 5 by Horizonte; 5 by Horizonti; 48 by Hollar; 6 by Theodre van Kessel; 10 by Runciman; 15 by Cornelis Bega; 24 by Castiglione; 7 by Silvestre; 42 by Various Artists after Rembrandt, Du Jardin, Della Bella, etchings, on thin china paper, later impressions, various sizes, largest 270 x 200mm. (10 1/2 x 7 3/4 in), neatly tipped onto album leaves, straight grain morocco, blind tooled, gilt, rubbing and scuffs, large 4to, [circa 1819-22]. 

Arthur Hind notes in 'A Catalogue of Rembrandt's etchings', that the current example of 'A Collection of Two Hundred Original Etchings' must have printed by Lewis between 1819-22, as it was during these years that he was located at 21 Finch Lane, Cornhill. Est. £2,000-3,000 [Lot 168]


Click here to view a fully illustrated online catalogue.

Click here to view a pdf of the sale catalogue.