I sat in an auction room last week waiting to bid on 2 lots that I wanted (a watch and an oak shop display unit) both of which I was successful in buying. The lot I really wanted though passed me by.
We’re normally quite good at researching lots that we want in auctions – looking at the catalogue online, going to the view, narrowing our bid lists and then sticking to the limits that we have set ourselves – but this auction was different, it was only only flicking through the local paper last week that I realised that the auction was a week earlier than I expected and that we had missed the day of viewing before hand. I should point out that this is no Bonhams or Sothebys; the local auction house holds monthly antiques auctions there stock in trade being livestock and agricultural sales – often illustrated by the preponderance of flies in the auction rooms. So with an hour before the auction started we viewed the lots.
The lot I wanted was a painting, by Georg Eduard Otto Saal; an Alpine scene, oil on board, nicely framed (and obviously at some cost), the actual piece not in great nick but well painted. I didn’t recognise the artist, had no need for it and . . . a limited budget. One of those instances where you have no idea of the worth (there are no estimates or guidelines at this auction) and have to therefore see how it unfolds. The bidding opened at £400. I was out already. The bids climbed and the hammer came down at £1400, the telephone bidder winning against someone in the room. It’s kind of reassuring when this happens; backing the idea that you can spot a well painted piece without knowing the artist. The (badly photographed) image of the work has now disappeared from the auction house website, but I’ve located what must have been a companion piece on the web.
The composition of the one that I saw last week was even nicer; the artist was at his easel painting the view and the bear was stood on a rock behind him, artist oblivious to his being overlooked.
Otto Saal (1818-1870); a fine painter.