Famous Golf Portrait Sells at Bonhams

Posted in Art Market by Editor on December 16, 2015

Press release (10 December 2015) from Bonhams:


Lemuel Francis Abbott, Portrait of Henry Callender, 1790s.

[Last week] Bonhams sold one of the most famous golfing paintings in the world for £722,500. Lemuel Francis Abbott’s The Portrait of Henry Callender standing in a landscape, in the red coat of Captain General of the Blackheath Golf Club and holding a putter is now the most valuable portrait of golf ever sold at auction [sale 22645, lot 47]. Also in the Old Master Paintings sale at Bonhams London was an extremely rare iron headed putter from around 1780, almost certainly the same club featured in the portrait, which sold for £62,500. Both lots went to the same buyer in the packed saleroom.

Painted between 1790 and 1798, Henry Callender’s portrait is one of the earliest golf paintings of an identified sitter. Prints were made of the work in 1812 after Callender’s death and copies have hung in golf clubs and private collections worldwide for centuries. The original painting has hung at the Royal Blackheath Golf Club for more than 150 years, watching over the famous ‘Wee Dinners’ in the clubhouse. Traditionally, guests enjoyed haggis, neeps and tatties before hitting golf balls out of the window onto the 18th green from the dining room table. The Royal Blackheath has sold the painting to raise funds for the Club’s acquisition of the freehold of its course and clubhouse from The Crown Estate—a one-off opportunity to ensure its future. “Working with this painting has taken our department on a fascinating journey through British cultural history,” said Andrew McKenzie, Bonhams Director of Old Master Paintings. “A Scottish expatriate, Henry Callender was both connoisseur and sociable bon viveur and his charisma shines through this charming painting. The sale marked an incredibly exciting opportunity for golfing enthusiasts all over the world.”

Other highlights of the sale included a number of lots which sold for well over their pre-sale estimates. A winter landscape by Gysbrecht Leytens sold for £110,500, more than five times its estimate of £20,000–30,000, while a still life from the workshop of Jan Brueghel the Younger smashed its estimate of £30,000–50,000, selling for £86,500. An early 16th-century German School drawing, Portrait of a Gentleman, bust-length, in a red hat, also sold for £35,000, nearly ten times its pre-sale estimate of £4,000–6,000.

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