Historically significant painting leads sale of important private collection of marine art

The John Robertson Collection of Marine Paintings
9 Jul 2014
London, New Bond Street

A painting, showing the arrival of Charlotte of Mecklenburg at Harwich in September 1761, days before her marriage to George III, is to be sold as part of the John Windeler Robertson Collection of Marine Art at Bonhams in London on 9 July. It is estimated at £300,000-500,000

The work, by John Cleveley, is part of a collection of largely British pictures and worth up to £1,200,000. It depicts the Royal Yacht, Royal Caroline moored off Harwich in early September 1761. Aboard was the chosen bride of George III, 17 year old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. On 7 September, Charlotte, who spoke no English, met her prospective husband and his family for the first time at St James Palace. The following morning they were married.

Charlotte was a cultured and accomplished woman and her marriage to George is considered to have been happy and successful until the King's gradual descent into madness. Their relationship was at the heart of Alan Bennett's popular 1991 stage play The Madness of George III, later filmed as The Madness of King George.

John Cleveley started life as a ship's carpenter and, indeed, continued to work as a shipwright after he embarked on his second career as a marine artist. His work is highly prized for its accuracy which is said to stem from his practical knowledge of ship building.

John Windeler Robertson had a long standing passion for the sea and all things maritime. He spent his National Service in the Royal Navy and, on his return to civilian life, maintained his links with the sea by competing for many years in the Cowes to Torquay power boat race. The starting point of his collection was a gift from his mother and, over time, he acquired many more works using the joy he would get from looking at them as his only criterion.

Director of Bonhams 19th Century Paintings Department, Alistair Laird, said," The quality of the John Robertson collection is testament to the taste, passion and love of his subject of the man who assembled it over a lifetime. The result is a select group of pictures that show the respective artists at the peak of their powers and it was this honest pursuit of the best that makes the collection such a rare combination. In the modern world of collecting where so much emphasis is placed on investment and the conspicuous acquisition of certain artists' work it is restorative to come across a collection put together with one reason in mind – enjoyment."

Other notable works in the collection include, The Battle of the Nile by William Anderson (estimated at £60,000-80,000) painted in 1801, the year of Nelson's famous and important victory over Bonaparte's Navy and a stirring depiction by Francis Holman of another famous naval action, Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood fending off attacks by the French fleet under the Comte de Grasse in Frigate Bay, off Basseterre, St Kitts, in January 1782. This work is estimated at £50,000-80,000.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

  1. Alistair Laird
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8211
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7434

Related auctions