Express & Star

Sold! 1884 painting found in Staffordshire country house makes thousands at hotly contested auction

A dramatic bidding battle for a Victorian oil painting culminated in the work selling for £35,000.

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Senior valuer Sarah Williams with MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, by John Brett.

MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, painted by John Brett ARA (British 1831-1902) in 1884, was the last lot of the day at The Lichfield Auction Centre and sold to a phone bidder after strong competition in the room and online.

The 42ins by 84ins oil on canvas was amongst a treasure trove of antiques from The Grange, Perton, all going under the hammer with Richard Winterton Auctioneers over two days.

Signed and dated 1884, the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy when it was sold for the first time that year, and the original receipt was included with the work at auction this week.

Auctioneer Richard Winterton, who yielded the gavel for the sale, said: “The work proved to be a highlight amongst highlights, fetching an appropriately impressive hammer price for a marvellous large work of art.

“The exceptional provenance of the painting, which even included the original receipt when it was sold for the first time in 1884, meant it exceeded all our expectations at auction.”

Catalogued across more than 150 lots, auctioneers said the contents of The Grange, Perton, evoked the history and quality of a bygone lifestyle.

MacLeod’s Maidens, Skye, painted by John Brett ARA (British 1831-1902), oil on canvas, signed and dated 1884.

Built in 1926, industrialist Fred Cooper and his family moved into the property in 1969 and it remained the Cooper home until Fred’s wife Betty passed away earlier this year aged 92. Fred died in 1990, just short of his 68th birthday.

The Brett oil was the largest painting in the Cooper collection. Already in situ at The Grange, it was purchased along with the property when the family moved in.

Other art sold on Monday included a Dutch landscape in the manner of Aelbert Cuyp, fetching £4,200.

The furniture section featured a late 19th century Louis XVI style kingwood, ebony and marquetry inlaid centre table, making £1,350, and a 19th century ebonized and gilt brass credenza, sold at £1,300.

Clocks included a veneered longcase clock of one month duration by Samuel Stretch of Bristol circa 1730, sold at £1,800, and a 1973 Dent reproduction of an ingenious Congreve Rolling Ball Clock, sold at £1,050.

Fred and Betty Cooper.

Further highlights from The Grange were an Edward VII silver desk stand used by the Prince of Wales in 1923 on a visit to Wolverhampton Town Hall, sold at £1,050.

Later the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales in 1923 went on to become Edward VIII and abdicated the throne in 1936 after ruling for less than a year so as to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Mr Winterton added: “It was clear from his collection that Fred Cooper had a keen eye for classical pieces and a passion for history and the arts, as well as a keen sense of humour and unconventional attitude.

“The stunning and eclectic array of furniture, paintings and antiques he carefully curated were of wide and varied taste yet always erring on the side of quality.

“This quality has been underlined by the huge amount of interest this auction has attracted and we’re delighted for our client at the quantity of impressive hammer prices achieved.”