Chalk studies for lost paintings by Benjamin West sell for £138,880 at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions

In the wake of Old Masters Week, two original chalk studies for lost paintings by Benjamin West found impressive price tags at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale of Watercolours, Drawings & Prints, selling for a combined total of £138,880.

Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent

Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent

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.

Moses Showing the Brazen Serpent[/caption]These works date from a period when West explored religious themes and appear 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.

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.

The sale was held on Thursday 24th July at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions’ saleroom in London’s Mayfair. The illustrated catalogue is available online at