Important Gaucho Painting to be Sold at Toovey’s

Juan Manuel Blanes’s Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1879-1885

A major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes of a Gaucho has been re-discovered here in Sussex by Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams. It will be sold at Toovey’s Washington salerooms on February 15th and carries a pre-sale estimate of £80,000-£120,000.

Juan Manuel Blanes (1830-1901) is renowned for painting grand history paintings and portraits, as well as scenes and events that shaped Uruguay’s national identity during the years of conflict that resulted in independence from Spain.

The Uruguayan national gallery in Montevideo is named Museo del Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes and houses the largest collection of the artist’s work.

Tim’s research has revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance. The first owner of the painting was the notable Spanish aristocrat Baldomero Hyacinth de Bertodano, 7th Marquis de Moral. He lived at Cowbridge House near Malmsbury in Wiltshire and the painting hung there until his death in 1921. The contents of Cowbridge House were auctioned to divide the estate between five family members. The painting was included in the sale. Described as ‘A fine Oil Painting, The Gaucho on the Pampas in Argentine about 52 by 46 ins’. Baldomero’s brother, Charles Edmund de Bertodano, a notable Railway engineer, purchased the painting from the auction and it has remained with his family to the present day.

The landscape being sold at Toovey’s depicts a scene with a Gaucho on horseback pointing, as two horsemen gallop away on the horizon. Despite the reference to Argentina in the Cowbridge House auction catalogue, the painting in fact shows a Uruguayan prairie. The golden glow of Blanes’s palette and the way that he paints the effect of light playing on that prairie is remarkable.

Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams with Juan Manuel Blanes’s important painting Gaucho on Horseback

Tim explains how Blanes’ Gaucho paintings celebrate the way of life of these independent, rugged horsemen whose lives embodied the South American ‘Wild West’ and national identity in a similar way to the cowboys of the United States. The open prairie beneath an expansive sky would have contrasted with the pressured urban lives of the cosmopolitan collectors who patronised Blanes’ work.

Commenting on the forthcoming auction Tim said “This is the first time that this important painting has appeared on the market in some 102 years – I can’t wait until sale day to see what happens!”

Juan Manuel Blanes’ Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1879-1885, will be auctioned at Toovey’s on February 15th with a pre-sale estimate of £80,000-£120,000

Rare Louis Vuitton Trunk sets New World Record at Toovey’s

The Louis Vuitton ‘explorer’s’ (malle cabine) trunk exterior

A new world record at auction of £66,000 has just been set at Toovey’s Washington salerooms for a Louis Vuitton ‘explorer’s’ ‘malle cabine’ trunk discovered by their specialist William Rowsell.

Toovey’s specialist William Rowsell has established the saleroom’s reputation as leaders in the auction of Louis Vuitton trunks.

This early trunk was beautifully crafted but quite plain in comparison to later examples. the inscribed name and initials to the top and sides are believed to relate to Dr Edward Percival Dickin. Born in Yorkshire in 1871, he studied in Paris and worked in Northampton Hospital.

The record breaking Louis Vuitton zinc covered ‘explorer’s’ (malle cabine) trunk, circa 1895, with Toovey’s specialist William Rowsell

The famous Louis Vuitton LV was not used until 1896. All Louis Vuitton trunks are numbered and the original paper label, no. ‘37942’, in the interior confirmed its authenticity and date.

The early story of Louis Vuitton is a romantic one caught up with the industrial and political revolutions of 19th century France. The company’s founder, Louis Vuitton, spent his early childhood in Anchay in the Jura region on the eastern borders of France. The 1830s witnessed a significant migration in France from countryside to city. In 1835 the thirteen year old Louis Vuitton left home. It took him two years to walk the 292 miles to Paris as he worked to feed himself along the way. He arrived in the city in 1837. These qualities of determination and hard work would inform his life and success.

At the age of sixteen Louis Vuitton was taken on as an apprentice in the workshop of the successful packer and box maker Monsieur Marechal where he quickly gained a reputation for his abilities in this fashionable field of enterprise.

In 1854 he married Clemence-Emile Parriaux and left Marechal to found Louis Vuitton. To begin with he specialized in packing fashions and fragile objects. It was not until 1858 that he introduced his revolutionary rectangular, stackable trunks. They were an immediate success and the business expanded.

Napolean III and the French Empire was re-established in 1852 and Louis Vuitton was hired as the personal box maker to the Empress of France, Eugine de Montijo.

Louis Vuitton’s son George Vuitton would build on his father’s reputation and establish Louis Vuitton as a worldwide company.

The story of the founder, Louis Vuitton, together with the beautiful craftsmanship which he established ensure that the earliest and rarest examples of the company’s work attract international attention at auction and underpin the continued reputation of this luxury brand today.

Shipley Arts Festival 2023

Rupert with The Stradivarius Piano Trio – Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant and Jonathan Few. Photos courtesy of Richard Greenfield

Community and enduring friendships were celebrated at the launch of Andrew Bernardi’s Shipley Arts Festival which this year was once again held at Toovey’s Washington auction rooms.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation gathering a community of many of this country’s leading musicians whilst providing pathways to emerging talent. This work is recognised and supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

I asked Andrew about the continuing success and growing national reputation of the Shipley Arts Festival. He replied “At the Shipley Arts Festival’s heart is the inspiration of English music, in particular continuing John Ireland’s tradition of music inspired by Sussex.” The composer John Ireland is famously buried at Shipley. Andrew continues “We continue to commission new music for Sussex and the festival from many of the nation’s leading composers and musicians. This year we have asked the famous English operatic baritone and composer Roderick Williams OBE, to write the third and final movement of his Knepp Piano Trio. This piece not only references composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland but is also inspired by the festival’s deepening celebration of nature, especially here in Sussex.”

At the heart of the 2023 season of concerts will be Andrew Bernardi’s Stradivarius Piano Trio with acclaimed Sussex born pianist Maria Marchant and cellist Johnathan Few. They will be performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Archduke Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op.97 and Antonin Dvořák’s Dumky Piano Trio No.4, Op.90, as well as works by Bach, Purcell, and John Ireland.

Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi with members of his String Academy. Photos courtesy of Richard Greenfield

One of the things I most value about the festival is how it remains generous and outward facing supporting our county’s young musicians through its String Academy who, together with Andrew and his professional musicians, performed music from the movies and Pink Floyd at the launch on Sunday evening.

Speaking on the evening Andrew said “What we have in common with our sponsors friends and patrons are our shared values. A belief in our communities and young people, and that there is a place for excellence.”

As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, and NFU Mutual at Henfield and Chichester, we wish Andrew Bernardi and his Shipley Arts Festival every success with the 2023 season of concerts.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival go to

Chalk, Wood and Water at Pallant House Gallery

JMW Turner – Chichester Canal, oil on canvas, c. 1828 © Tate 2022

As Pallant House Gallery celebrates its 40th anniversary I am returning to its current exhibition Chalk, Wood and Water.

Sussex with her distinctive chalk-cliff coastline, Weald, and the rolling lees and valleys of the ancient South Downs, is as much an idea as a place.

This beautiful, expansive, textural exhibition seeks to articulate how the Sussex landscape has inspired, and continues to inspire writers, musicians and artists lending a distinctive voice to Englishness. The exhibition charts the ways in which Sussex has been a place of creativity, exploration and retreat in the context of so many artists’ lives.

This processional show begins with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), journeys through the 20th century and ends with the contemporary and Andy Goldsworthy (b.1956).

It is the first time that JMW Turner’s oil, Chichester Canal, has returned to the city since it was painted in 1828. On the horizon the Cathedral spire, a ship and trees are outlined against the luminous sky. The artist had strong associations with Sussex through his patron and friend the 3rd Earl of Egremont at Petworth who had invested heavily in the Chichester Canal. The canal was part of a network which drew a line through town and country connecting Portsmouth and London.

Turner embraced a new vocabulary in his art to describe his modern age. It is easy to forget that it was a vocabulary which many of his contemporaries found shocking.

Andy Goldsworthy’s 2002 installation Chalk in the Pallant H

The contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy was commissioned by Pallant House Gallery to produce the work Chalk in 2002. This fabulous installation was made from locally quarried chalk. The naturally weathered grey outer surface has been etched by the artist using a flint to reveal the white chalk beneath. Speaking about the sculpture Andy Goldsworthy said ‘Dig a hole up North and its black and stony and earthy. So to dig a hole in Sussex and to find chalk so absolutely pristine and pure and white…was like finding the sky in the ground.’

For me the luminous, pure white line in Andy Goldsworthy’s Chalk has an invitational quality to it reminiscent of being a pilgrim in the Sussex landscape, processional like this exhibition and life.

These two works capture in very different ways what is at the heart of this exceptional exhibition – the inspiration Sussex and her landscape has given and continues to give to so many of our nation’s leading artists.

Sussex Landscape – Chalk, Wood and Water runs at Pallant House Gallery Chichester until 23rd April 2023.

Here are a few of my favourite things…

Dame Vera Lynn’s late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket

2022 saw some remarkable discoveries and sales at Toovey’s. It is always wonderful when remarkable and beautiful pieces are sold to the benefit of Sussex charities.

In The Sound of Music I love it when Julie Andrews sings “…These are a few of my favourite things.”

With many to choose from two of my favourite things from the 2022 auction season were the remarkable heart shaped diamond brooch sold for the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust and the Duncan Grant Still Life in aid of The Sussex Heritage Trust.

During the Second World War Dame Vera Lynn was known as the Forces Sweetheart, a singer of undoubtable talent she became an icon of hope in the face of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of the Second World War.

The heart remains one of the definitive symbols of love and Dame Vera’s large, late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket, pavé set with old cut diamonds was a fine example. The smaller diamonds accentuated the principle stone at its centre within a shimmering field. The back was glazed and hinged with a locket compartment. This beautiful jewel with it’s exceptional provenance realised £26,000 for her charitable trust.

Later in the year a still life by the famous Charleston and Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant was sold at Toovey’s in aid of the Sussex Heritage Trust.

Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Chair with Flowers. Still Life, oil on canvas

The picture was donated to the Trust by Peter Carreras, a distinguished Sussex artist and printmaker, and his wife, Greta.

Duncan Grant’s painting provides a very British voice to the influences of Post-Impressionism. It depicts a handmade jug, of the type made by both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, filled with flowers upon a painted Bloomsbury chair. His handling of the paint and the joyous palette reflects the art he and Vanessa Bell produced here in Sussex at Charleston. Although a later work the painting made £14,000 for the Sussex Heritage Trust.

When I founded Toovey’s some 28 years ago with my Dad, Alan, we wanted to model a different way of being business where people, our clients and team, were front and centre. And where the business was at the heart of the community supporting what is good in our county. It has been great fun and these values remain central to Toovey’s. Working alongside and in support of our county’s fantastic charities, museums, galleries and communities is, as it has always been, a great privilege.