A Fine Line: Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

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34-35 New Bond Street, W1A 2AA, London, UK
Open: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm


A Fine Line: Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries


A Fine Line: Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries
Auction: Wed 7 Jul 2021
Exhibition: - Tue 6 Jul 2021
Mon-Fri 10am-5pm


In a subtly new look at works on paper, this sale highlights, through a carefully selected group of works spanning almost five centuries, the immense variety of techniques, media and styles employed by artists working on paper and other related supports such as vellum, and also sheds light on the many purposes that these drawings, watercolours, gouaches and pastels served. 

There could be no better example of a drawing made for the purposes of self-education than the double-sided study sheet by Rubens, newly identified as an incredibly rare surviving sheet from the notebook that he carried with him to Italy in 1602-3, in which he recorded all the great works, ancient and modern that he saw. This volume, so crucial to Rubens’s development as an artist, was burned in a fire in 1720, but this and two other sheets must have been cut out before that time, saving them from the flames. 

Another highlight of the sale, is the magnificent watercolour of a Hare, executed in 1582 by Hans Hoffmann, for no lesser patron than the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, whose court in Prague was one of Europe’s greatest centres of collecting and patronage in the years around 1600. 

The strong Dutch and Flemish section of the sale is bracketed by two utterly different drawings: a very beautiful, slightly wistful portrait of a young lady, drawn around 1585 by Jacques de Gheyn II, and a wonderful, large and technically original work, executed in 1745 by Cornelis Troost, illustrating with the artist’s characteristic humour and panache a scene from a famous – and controversial – comic play of the day.

From France, there are drawings by most of the leading masters of the 18th century, and also a typically passionate, romantic watercolour of an African couple in a landscape, by Théodore Géricault. This watercolour dates from the later 1820s, as does another major work in the sale, the overwhelmingly haunting, monochrome depiction of A Shepherd Leading his Flock under a Full Moon, drawn by the great English visionary, Samuel Palmer, in 1829-30 – the central moment of the artist’s Shoreham period, when he produced some of his most powerful and forward-looking works on paper.  Palmer’s drawing comes to auction from the estate of Cyril and Shirley Fry, who were leading dealers in English drawings and watercolours from the 1960s until the early 2000s. Their collection (described in more detail elsewhere on this sale page by Huon Mallalieu) is characterised by a focus on quality and artistic interest rather than ‘big names’, but all the same the group of drawings to be sold this July across this sale, the concurrent online sale of Old Master and British Drawings, and at Chiswick Auctions, includes significant works by Turner, Gainsborough and Wilson, as well as delightful and exemplary drawings by the likes of Thomas Patch, John Hamilton Mortimer and Peter de Wint. 

Rounded off by other fine drawings from Italy, Spain and elsewhere, the sale gives a remarkably complete picture of the many uses to which works on paper were put, and the styles and approaches employed by European draughtsmen across the five centuries that took the art of drawing from the late Medieval world to the dawn of modernism.  

For assistance with bidding and registration, please contact:

+44 207 293 5000 



Samuel Palmer, R.W.S

A Shepherd leading his flock under the full moon

Black watercolour over black chalk, heightened with scratching out on card

148 by 178 mm

Estimate £700,000 – 900,000

For sale enquiries please contact:

Gregory Rubinstein

Senior Director

Head of Department, Worldwide

Old Master & Early British Drawings

+44 20 7293 5417


Cristiana Romalli

Senior Director,

Senior Specialist

Old Master Drawings

+44 20 7293 5419


Alexander Faber

Specialist, VP

Old Master Drawings

+1 212 606 7552


Mark Griffith-Jones

Director, Specialist

British Watercolours & Drawings

+44 20 7293 5083


Claire Anderson


Old Master Drawings

+44 20 7293 5333


Raluca Nastase

PA / Department Assistant

Old Master Drawings

+44 20 7293 5418


all images © the gallery and the artist(s)

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