New World Record for J.M.W. Turner (Was Sotheby’s Chairman the Consignor?)

J.M.W. Turner Rome, View from Mount Aventine (1835) Photo: Sotheby's

A new world auction record for J.M.W. Turner was set last night at Sotheby’s London, when Rome, from Mount Aventine (1835) was hammered down at £30.3 million ($47.4 million), well above the pre-sale high estimate of £20 million ($24.1 million).

The sale also represents a new record for a pre-20th century British artist, and the highest price in the Old Master and British Painting category in 2014.

Described by the house as “one of the last great Turner masterpieces remaining in private hands,” the immaculate condition and storied provenance certainly contributed to the impressive result. Before yesterday the painting changed hands only once, in 1878, when it was bought by the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who was later elected British Prime Minister.

Alex Bell, Joint International Head and Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings said “It is hard to overstate the importance of Rome, from Mount Aventine. There are no more than half a dozen major works by Turner left in private hands and this work must rank as one of the very finest. This painting, which is nearly 200 years old, looks today as if it has come straight from the easel of the artist.”

According to the Independent the sale of Rome, from Mount Aventine comes only weeks after news emerged that Sotheby’s chairman Lord Dalmeny, the son and heir of the Earl of Rosebery, separated from his wife Caroline after 20 years of marriage. The separation has lead to speculation that the family consigned the artwork to help finance Lord Dalmeny’s impending divorce.

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