£5.8m Turner watercolour a British record

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

In Britain one of the most important watercolours to be put up for sale in half a century has been snapped up for £5.8 million at Christie’s (actual selling price: £5,832,000 including excess).

In “The Blue Rigi: Lake of Lucerne, Sunrise” the telephone bidder bought a softly glowing yellow sunrise in which JMW Turner trapped a moment of cause and effect – gun, dog and the flight of ducks.

“In a technique of almost unimaginable subtlety Turner expresses his lifelong preoccupation with the effects of light, shade and atmosphere,” said Noel Annesley, honorary chairman of Christie’s, who personally took the gavel for the auction.

The painting has two sister paintings also from Switzerland: The Red Rigi and The Dark Rigi. “Turner had never made any drawings like this before and never made any like them again,” said John Ruskin, the 19th century art critic, when he saw the works.

In 1842 the painting was bought by its first owner Elhanan Bicknell for 80 guineas and was in the property of its latest owners since 1942. The auction house has said they plan to keep the identity of the newest buyer, who paid slightly more than 80 guineas, secret.

In 2000 Rosetti‘s Pandora was the last most expensive watercolour ever sold in Britain – it went for £2.6m, less than half the price of The Blue Rigi.

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