Research - Clarence bought a picture from his father's collection

Scritto da Marcus Bicknell on .

lincolnshire stackyard peter de wintClarence purchased a painting from his father's collection in the 1863 auction at Christies after Elhanan's death in 1861.

I have been analysing the paintings, espcially those by Turner, collected by Elhanan Bicknell (1788-1861) whale oil millionaire of Herne Hill. I am preparing my paper next Wednesday at the Independent Turner Society talk in London. My source material includes three copies of the Christies catalogue with hand-written notes inside... the price, the buyer, what Elhanan originally paid.

To my surprise I found that Clarence Bicknell, his 13th child, bought one of the 500 works on sale, lot No.90, A view near a Stackyard by Peter De Wint. There are some surprising features to this discovery. Firstly, Clarence was a second year, 20 year old student at Trinity College, Cambridge University in spring 1863; he must have made the effort to travel to London for the auction which spread over several days. Secondly, he spent quite a lot on a relatively hum drum picture, £47.5s.00d. That makes about £16000 or €20,000 euros today. That makes us wonder, thirdly, where he got the money from. Although the art had not been sold up till this day, much of Elhanan's estate (more than 5 times the amound realised for the art) had been through probate and here would have been large sums already flowing to the bank accounts of the happy children.

Now I have to find out who Clarence sold the de Wint to, and where it is now. What? In storage at the IISL? Probably not.

Peter De Wint (1784–1849) was an English landscape painter. A number of his pictures are in the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Collection, Lincoln.

Elhanan's other offspring were at the sale.  The amount spent by the frugal Clarence is paltry compared to the £1995 paid by his brother Herman for Lot 122 Palestrina – a Composition at the same sale… that’s £235,000 in 2019 money. Henry Sanford Bicknell, who had married David Roberts's daughter Christine, purchased many expensive artworks. When he died in turn, Christies sold his large collection in 1881. Not all the purchases were success stories... Henry bought Ivy Bridge Mill for 880 guineas and it made less, 800 guineas, in the sale of Henry's estate in 1881. The buyer was, however, his brother Percy (Marcus's great grandfather), the unfortunate who presided over the failure of the whale oil and candle business, to whom Clarence gave money later in life and who died penniless; this painting was sold on to Wm Hollin for 800 guineas, although the date of the sale is not known.

More about Elhanan's collection at

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