Sir Stanley Spencer R.A. (British, 1891-1959) The Nativity 28 x 38.2 cm. (11 x 15 in.)
Lot 41AR
Sir Stanley Spencer R.A. (British, 1891-1959) The Nativity 28 x 38.2 cm. (11 x 15 in.)
£18,000 - 25,000
US$ 29,000 - 40,000

Lot Details
Sir Stanley Spencer R.A. (British, 1891-1959)
The Nativity
oil on board
28 x 38.2 cm. (11 x 15 in.)
Painted circa 1912

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Whereabouts unknown until
    Ian Hollick, 1966
    With Arthur Tooth & Son, London, 1972, where purchased by
    Maurice Hussey
    Peter Blake
    With Waddington Galleries, London
    With Gillian Jason Gallery, London, where purchased by the present owner, 28 October 1986

    EXHIBITED:
    London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, British Paintings 1900-1971, 13 June-8 July 1972, cat.no.6

    LITERATURE:
    Keith Bell, Stanley Spencer, A Complete Catalogue of the Paintings, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1992, p.522, cat.no.454 (ill.b&w)

    The present work was probably painted in 1912, the same year Spencer completed a much larger version of The Nativity (Slade School of Fine Art collection), which he entered for the Slade Summer Composition Prize of 1912 and which was awarded the Nettleship prize for figure painting, an honour shared with Gilbert Solomon. While the two Nativities are of the same subject, they bear little resemblance to each other, except for their common setting in Cookham and interest in Italian Quattrocento religious works. At this time, Spencer often made small oil studies on board or pencil-and-wash studies on paper for major works, notably his Study for Joachim among the Shepherds (oil on paper, 22.2 x 15.9 cm.), also probably painted in 1912. Perhaps we have something similar here. If that's the case, then he clearly was not happy with the composition and continued to experiment with other ways of managing the relationship between the worshippers and the birth scene. Indeed, he was still dissatisfied with the appearance of the Christ child in the Slade painting thirty years later (Tate 733.2.85).

    In the smaller Nativity, Spencer chose an architectural setting divided roughly down the middle to show interior and exterior, much like Pierro's Urbino Flagellation and Arezzo Annunciation, works Spencer could consult in his Gowans and Grey illustrated art book. The setting, possibly the exterior of the boathouse on the left and the interior of Ovey's barn on the right, follows his usual pattern of using familiar Cookham scenes for his religious paintings.

    We are grateful to Professor Keith Bell for compiling this catalogue entry.
Auction information

The 29 May sale was the departments most successful auction to date making almost £5m.

Furthermore, it was 90% sold by value with some staggering results achieved for fresh, competitively priced material sourced from private collections. Over half of sold lots soared above their high estimates, indicating that Bonhams is best positioned to secure the best price for your Modern British & Irish Art.

The variety on offer within this genre continues to delight buyers, proven by exceptional results for post-war masters such as Auerbach, Scully, Hockney and Freud whilst the early-mid century examples by Spencer, Lavery, Burra and Moore also exceeded expectation. We were proud to break our own world auction record twice over in the same sale for a pencil drawing by L.S. Lowry. Agecroft Regatta sold for £211,250, pipping The Organ Grinder (£151,250) to the title. The sculpture and Irish content were similarly contended for by the packed saleroom and busy telephones.

The cover lot Garden Path, Cookham Rise by Sir Stanley Spencer fetched an impressive £769,250 while the much admired Oil-bound Puffin by Lucian Freud commanded £385,250 on the day, with both returning to private collections.

We are delighted to now invite consignments for the forthcoming auction on 20 November 2013.

Please contact a member of the department or visit the sale webpage for further information.

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