In auctioneering, nothing stimulates interest more than the appearance on the market of a painting or object considered lost or missing. In these past six months Bonhams has brought several such discoveries to auction and seen them achieve some outstanding results.
Madonna Laboris by the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, for example, had achieved almost legendary status but its whereabouts was unknown until it was spotted in a New York apartment by a Bonhams valuer. It sold in June for nearly £8,000,000 making it the most expensive Russian painting sold at auction. Similarly, a routine valuation visit turned up Stanley Spencer's 'Garden Path, Cookham Rise' - sold in May for £770,000 - which had not been seen in public since it was purchased in 1950. The owners of the Sri Lankan moonstone temple step, which made £550,000 in April, suspected that it might be important but could persuade no-one to take them seriously. Research by a Bonhams valuer showed it to be just one of seven pre-Hindu stone steps to date from 1000 AD. The identification by our specialist of only the fifth clock known to be by the 17th century clock maker Samuel Knibb was not only a thrilling moment but one of real significance in the history of horology. It was sold in July for £460,000.
Discoveries were also a feature of the highly successful sale of the contents of Trelissick House in Cornwall. Held over two days in glorious July sunshine it was 100% sold and, at £3.3 million, doubled its high estimate. Among the best of a very good crop of 800 lots was a rare flambé-glazed bottle from the reign of the Emperor Qianlong which sold for £337,000 and two Iznik vases which made a combined total of over £750,000.
To round off a remarkable six months, Bonhams made history at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed in July when the hammer was brought down on Juan-Manuel Fangio's Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 Racing car sold for an astonishing £19,600,000. A world record for any vehicle sold at auction, it was an exceptional price for a car which holds an iconic place in the history of the sport.
I hope you will enjoy reading more about these objects on the following pages and about some of the many other wonderful things sold at Bonhams since the beginning of the year.