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World record prices at Bonhams 19th century pictures sale


The Ionian Dance by Sir Edward John Poynter, rediscovered after almost 100 years out of the spotlight, was the highlight of Bonhams’ 19th Century Paintings sale today on 10th July, selling for £301,250 to the successful buyer amongst a multitude of telephone bidders.

The re-emergence of The Ionian Dance at auction is the first time that the work has been seen for generations, having last appeared on the market in 1915. The Ionian Dance (1895) hails from the artist’s most successful period, painted one year after Poynter was appointed Director of the National Gallery and one year before he was elected President of the Royal Academy.

The painting was purchased by the notable collector Robert English and remained in his collection until his death in 1914. It was subsequently sold in his estate sale in 1915 and has remained in private hands since then.

Charles O’Brien, Head of Bonhams 19th Century Pictures department commented, “With 80% of lots sold and a sale total of just under £2.8million we were thrilled with the result yesterday. Bidding was strong from collectors worldwide and we set several new world record prices including £97,250 for a wonderful fairy painting Scene from a Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Bristol artist John Simmons, £62,450 for a lovely interior scene by Vittorio Bressanin and £85,250 for a large poignant work by the Irish artist William Henry Bartlett. The catalog was carefully curated and a considered selection of works combined with strong marketing ensured an outstanding sale.”

Moonlit scenes proved popular with buyers today. Other highlights from the sale included an eerie midnight harbor scene, Glasgow Docks (circa 1883) by John Atkinson Grimshaw which sold for £205,250 to a bidder on the telephone. Dock scenes of great ports in Scotland and the north of England became a defining theme throughout Grimshaw’s career. Grimshaw transforms what would have been a dreary rather unsavory dock into an attractive night scene bathed in moonlight.

Another notable lot was Stanhope Alexander Forbes’ harbor scene showing a sailor heading out to sea by candlelight ominously entitled Out into the Dark and Silence which realized £181,250.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world’s largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to


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