Emancipist Portrait Heads back to Australia

Emancipist Portrait Heads back to Australia


Mallams’ Picture Sale, held at the Oxford saleroom on 12th July, was filled with more than 550 paintings, prints and other works of art and achieved total sales of £134,000, bang on top estimate.

One really interesting lot was a miniature portrait (lot 548) by Edmund Edgar (1804-1854). The portrait depicted a lady with her hair tied in a bun, wearing a black dress with lace trimmed collar, and was guided at £1000-£1500. Measuring 5.5 x 4.5cm, it had an inscription ‘Painted by Edmund Edgar, Sydney, NSW, February 1837' on the back.

Edgar was born in England but was sent to Sydney, NSW, Australia in 1826, after being convicted of robbery. Soon after his arrival, Edgar was sent to work for the leading colonial artist Augustus Earle, and went on to work with several other artists, engravers and copperplate printers. After being conditionally pardoned in 1844, he focused on painting portrait miniatures, many of his subjects being emancipists (or ex-convicts) and their children.

There was fierce bidding on this lot, due to its rarity and history, with the final bid of £7200 coming from an Australian commission bidder, which will see it return to New South Wales where it was painted. Rupert Fogden, Head of Traditional Paintings, said “I was particularly pleased with this result, as works by Edmund Edgar very rarely come up for sale. This example was fresh on the market having been consigned by a local private vendor, received a lot of interest and was keenly fought over by several determined parties”.

Lot 449, a 20th century Estonian work, was a surprise hit with bidders. This oil on canvas depicted figures in a street in Tallin with the Town Hall in the distance, and was estimated at just £300-£500. However, stiff competition for this lot saw it soar to £6200, won by an online Estonian bidder.

An evocative oil on canvas of a lion’s head amongst foliage (lot 268), painted and signed by David Shepherd (1931-2017), was another lot that performed well. Dated 1996 and measuring just 14 x 14cm, it sold to a private, online buyer for £4000, £1000 above top estimate.

Still life paintings always prove popular and lot 452, by Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972) was no exception.  Entitled ‘Prometheus in my World’ from the series ‘Variations on a Theme’ and signed with a monogram, it sold for more than three times top estimate, being knocked down at £3200 to an online bidder. Armfield was married to Constance Smedley, and they collaborated on several projects, their best-known being ‘The Flower Book’, published in 1910.

Also featured in the sale was a signed watercolour painting of a passenger steamer leaving port (lot 364), by the Anglo-Canadian artist, Gyrth Russell (1892-1970), best known for his maritime art and work as a First World War artist. With a conservative estimate of just £200-£300 it clearly piqued interest and eventually sold online for £1900.

Lot 205 was an oil on canvas by the 20th century artist J T Ryder, who has produced a number of studies of racing pigeons. This lot featured 'Mr S Bailey's Red Cheq Hen' and 'Mr S Bailey's Reliance', and was signed and dated 1913. Estimated at £1200-£1500, it achieved slightly higher than top estimate, with the hammer falling at £1600 to an online bidder.

Mallams is now accepting entries for its October Art & Music Sale so if you have any interesting items you are considering selling at auction, please email Rupert Fogden on rupert.fogden@mallams.co.uk for a free, informal valuation.

All prices are subject to a 30% buyers' premium (VAT inclusive). 











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