Auctions | January 3, 2019

Rare Illustrations of Foreign Climes Top Tennants Auction

A collection of watercolour sketches by English artist William Page (1794-1872) sold for £8,500 (plus buyer’s premium) in Tennants Auctioneers’ Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sales on 19th December. Page, who attended the Royal Academy Schools in the early 19th Century, travelled widely across Europe and the Ottoman Empire, capturing the landscape and architecture of the places he visited in his atmospheric watercolours. Page also depicted figures in their national costume, examples of which were included in the lot. There were forty-two watercolours and fourteen ink and wash drawings in the lot, which drew heated bidding to soar above the £1,500-2,500 estimate. 

A second collection of 19th Century travel sketches depicting the Far East, this time by an unknown amateur hand, also sparked interest to sell at £4,000 (plus b.p.). Executed by a traveller aboard the East India Company ship ‘The Inglis’, it was one image in particular that elevated this lot from just a charming travelogue; a sketch of the first ordained Chinese Protestant minister - Liang Fa (1789-1855). Shown seated with his wife and grandson, Liang Fa had a far-reaching influence. Born into a poor family in the Guangdong Province, Liang Fa became the second Chinese convert, baptised by Protestant missionary Robert Morrison in 1814. Amongst a steadily growing congregation, Liang Fa became the first Chinese fully ordained Minister in 1827, and soon published his own tract ‘Good Words to Admonish the Age’ - which would have extraordinary consequences. Amongst its readers was Hong Xiuquan, a Christian convert who went on to found the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in Southern China in direct opposition to the Imperial State, and who claimed to be Christ’s younger brother. Hong Xiuquan and his followers rose up and attempted to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in what became the Taiping Rebellion - fourteen years of civil war which resulted in an estimated death toll of 20-30 million civilians and soldiers. 

Another item of note in the sale was a copy of Humphry Repton’s Designs for the Pavilion at Brighton. The volume contains his plans and designs for a redevelopment of the pavilion as a Mughal pleasure palace. Repton's genius was in marketing. He produced 'little red-books' to show landowners, and thus prospective customers, views of proposed projects. He would illustrate the current view on a flap, which could be lifted to reveal the proposed design - an easy way to show a client before and after comparisons of their houses. Repton was commissioned by the future George IV but the Prince ran out of money. It was partially realised by John Nash in 1814. The volume was sold for £4,200 (plus b.p.). 

The sale resulted in a total hammer price of £72,800 for 232 lots, with a 79% sold rate.