Two original chalk studies for lost paintings by Benjamin West sold for a combined total of £138,880 ($235,845) at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ July 24 sale of Watercolors, Drawings & Prints. These works date from a period when West explored religious themes and appeared to be preparatory studies of larger scale works which are now lost. The lost works later served as the basis for the engraved illustration in Thomas Macklin’s Bible, published circa 1793, but it is these chalk drawings that provide the first real insight into how West’s lost paintings may have originally appeared.
Richard Carroll, Pictures Department at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions said: “When the West drawings arrived at Bloomsbury House we anticipated a considerable amount of pre-sale interest and it was with great pleasure that we watched six telephone bidders and a collector in the room battle for these exceptional works. The final selling prices not only reflect the exceptional scale and quality of the two drawings, but also their importance in expanding our understanding of the artistic output of Benjamin West.”
American born Benjamin West was a pioneer of historical painting, an Old Master who produced work for Nobility and Royalty, acting as residence Historical Painter for the court of King George III.
In The Paintings of Benjamin West, Von Erffa and Stanley suggest that the two lost paintings may have formed the outer wings of a triptych centred around West’s The Resurrection, now held in St George’s Parish Church, Barbados.