Cotswold cow tops sale prices at art auction

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Dutch and Italian masters, English satirists and calligraphers from the Far East were all seen off by a cow from the Cotswolds at Moore Allen & Innocent’s selected picture sale last week.

Cow by Tree, a naïve study in oil on canvas, signed by the 19th century Northleach-based painter John Miles, sold for ten times its estimate when it went under the hammer on Friday, October 26.

The 63cm by 76cm painting, featuring a British White standing under a tree, had carried an estimate of £1,000 to £1,500. But determined bidders pushed the hammer price to £10,500 – the top price of the day.

Paintings in the naïve style of oversized livestock were popular in the 19th century, as they were a good way for farmers to advertise, or celebrate, their success at the newly-acquired scientific approach to breeding.

The fashion was killed off by the advent of commercial photography, but hundreds of paintings of prize-winning cattle – many adorned with rosettes from agricultural shows – survive today.

Another rural scene, this time in the modernist style, made the second highest lot price of the day. Ruth and Boaz, an oil on canvas by Jean Young (1914-1995) featured a busy harvest scene with a pair of lovers in the foreground; the woman holding a flower. The 71cm by 91cm painting made £3,000 against a £400 to £600 estimate.

There was a floral theme, too, in Flowers in a Basket on a Stone Ledge with Butterflies and Bee, an unsigned still life study in oil on canvas attributed to a follower of the Dutch School painter Pieter Casteels (1684-1749), which also achieved £3,000.

In the miniatures section, an early 19th century English School portrait of a young gentleman in black stock and green and red tartan coat, housed in a red leather covered oval case measuring 8.5 cm by 6.5 cm made £2,600 against a £400 to £600 estimate.

In the lithographs section, a couple of limited edition signed colour prints by the 20th Century English artist John Piper performed well, with West Walton Church, Norfolk achieving £2,500 and Wigmore Abbey making £1,000.

And collectors from the Far East – using the auction house’s new live online bidding system for the first time – pushed a trio of Chinese School watercolours to £1,800.

Auctioneer Philip Allwood said the live online bidding system had worked well. “It’s another string to our bow,” he said. “We went in cautiously optimistic, and ended up conducting around a third of our sales on the net.”

Mr Allwood said internet bidding would be a feature of future paintings and selected antiques sales.

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