A WATERCOLOUR masterpiece depicting a Northumberland landmark fetched almost £3m at auction last night.
The previously lost rendering of Bamburgh Castle, by JMW Turner, was sold for £2,932,500 to a private collector from the US at Sotheby’s in London.
The piece was a product of Turner’s tour of the North of England in 1797, on which he also created studies of Gibside, now a National Trust estate near Rowlands Gill, and Bamburgh’s neighbour, Dunstanburgh Castle.
Entitled Bamborough Castle (sic), it has not been seen in public since 1889 and experts have been mystified as to its whereabouts.
The last time it was on the open market was 135 years ago when the Earl of Dudley paid £3,309 for it, then the record price for a watercolour. In about 1890, the picture passed into the hands of the American Vanderbilt family, creators of a vast shipping and railroad empire during the 19th Century which made them one of the wealthiest families in the world. Since entering their collection, the watercolour had been passed down through generations of the family. Last night, there was interest from all over the world in the piece, which sold for almost double its estimated price.
Henry Wemyss, head of British watercolours at Sotheby’s, said: “This sale demonstrates the magic of Turner and the extraordinary watercolour techniques he alone developed. It fully shows his genius and it’s fantastic to see it appreciated by such an international audience this evening.
“It has been a real treat to have the privilege of bringing the watercolour to sale – after more than a century away from the public eye and we are absolutely delighted with tonight’s result.
“Its recent re-discovery after more than a century away from the public eye, alongside its dramatic and powerful British subject, result in an incredibly rare and special work of art.”