Edmund Edgar miniature portrait is big hit

A rare and historic miniature portrait of a 19th-century female painted by an empancipist artist was one of the star lots of a recent sale at Oxfordshire auction house, Mallams.

The painting was by Edmund Edgar (1804-1854) and depicted a lady with her hair tied in a bun, wearing a black dress with lace trimmed collar. Measuring 5.5 x 4.5cm, it had an inscription ‘Painted by Edmund Edgar, Sydney, NSW, February 1837‘ on the back.

Guide at £1,000-£1,500, following fierce bidding it eventually sold for £7,200 to an Australian commission bidder, which will see it return to New South Wales where it was originally painted.

A miniature portrait by Edmund Edgar

Edgar was born in England but was sent to Sydney, NSW, Australia in 1826, after being convicted of robbery. Soon after his arrival, Edgar was sent to work for the leading colonial artist Augustus Earle, and went on to work with several other artists, engravers and copperplate printers. After being conditionally pardoned in 1844, he focused on painting portrait miniatures, many of his subjects being emancipists (or ex-convicts) and their children.

Rupert Fogden, Head of Traditional Paintings, said “I was particularly pleased with this result, as works by Edmund Edgar very rarely come up for sale. This example was fresh on the market having been consigned by a local private vendor, received a lot of interest and was keenly fought over by several determined parties.”

Elsewhere in the sale, a 20th-century Estonian work, was a surprise hit with bidders. This oil on canvas depicted figures in a street in Tallin with the Town Hall in the distance, and was estimated at just £300-£500. However, stiff competition for this lot saw it soar to £6,200, won by an online Estonian bidder.

An evocative oil on canvas of a lion’s head amongst foliage, painted and signed by David Shepherd (1931-2017), was another lot that performed well. Dated 1996 and measuring just 14 x 14cm, it sold to a private, online buyer for £4,000, £1,000 above its top estimate.

Still life paintings always prove popular and a work by Maxwell Ashby Armfield (1881-1972) was no exception. Entitled ‘Prometheus in my World’ from the series ‘Variations on a Theme’ and signed with a monogram, it sold for more than three times top estimate, being knocked down at £3,200 to an online bidder. Armfield was married to Constance Smedley, and they collaborated on several projects, their best-known being ‘The Flower Book’, published in 1910.

Also featured in the sale was a signed watercolour painting of a passenger steamer leaving port by the Anglo-Canadian artist, Gyrth Russell (1892-1970), best known for his maritime art and work as a First World War artist. With a conservative estimate of just £200-£300 it clearly piqued interest and eventually sold online for £1,900.

An oil on canvas by the 20th-century artist J T Ryder, who has produced a number of studies of racing pigeons, featured ‘Mr S Bailey’s Red Cheq Hen‘ and ‘Mr S Bailey’s Reliance‘, signed and dated 1913. Estimated at £1,200-£1,500, it achieved slightly higher than top estimate, with the hammer falling at £1,600 to an online bidder.