British pre-Raphaelite barn owl painting discovery


William James Webbe (fl.1853-1878), The White Owl, 'Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,' signed with monogram and dated '1856' (lower left), oil on board, 17¾ x 10 3/8 in. (45 x 26.3 cm.) © Christie’s Images Limited 2012

From the Huffington Post:

Attic Owl Painting Sells For Nearly $1 Million At Christie’s Victorian Art Sale (PHOTO)

Posted: 12/17/2012 12:31 pm EST  |  Updated: 12/17/2012 12:31 pm EST

Everyone dreams of finding that one priceless item hiding in the corners of a dust-ridden attic. One UK teacher recently experienced the joy of rescuing such a forgotten antique, all thanks to an old owl painting that turned out to be worth nearly a million dollars.

Jane Cordery, an art teacher in Hampshire, discovered the detailed bird portrait in her attic after attempting to clean the space for a plumber. She’d never seen the ornate owl, but the painting’s intricate brushwork caught her eye and she decided to e-mail a photograph of the find to Christie’s auction house. According to the Daily Mail, one look at the owl and art expert Brandon Lindberg knew that that the work was worth much more than anyone suspected.

The auction house determined that the painting, titled “The White Owl,” was created by pre-Raphaelite artist William James Webbe, and experts valued the work at £70,000 ($113,449). Beyond the British masterpiece’s hefty price tag, it was also revealed that the UK’s Royal Society had exhibited the owl in the mid 19th century, exposing the piece to leading art critic, John Ruskin, who described it as “a careful study” with excellent brown wings.

The attic artwork hit Christie’s auction block last week, far outselling its estimated price — the winning bid was £589,250 ($951,050). Cordery maintains that she had never even seen the painting before her impromptu winter cleaning, while her partner, James Ravenscroft, remembers receiving the work as a present from his mother. “It’s a complete shock,” Cordery told the Daily Pioneer after the sale. “We were not imagining that in our wildest dreams.”

The owl depicted in the painting is a barn owl.

The motto of the painting is inspired by this poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, that group of romantic yet realist young artists who rocked the staid Victorian art establishment with their vivid, high-definition paintings, were an astounding bunch. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais were at the core of a movement which challenged the stagnation of academic art but Jeremy Green’s play Lizzie Siddal celebrates the only woman to have made an impact on the movement: here.

Owl

14 thoughts on “British pre-Raphaelite barn owl painting discovery

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