Kings, Queens and Prints

Portrait of King Henry VIII
Lot 235: Engraving by Cornelis Massijs, Portrait of King Henry VIII

The Sale of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints on the 21st March 2012 includes a Single-owner Collection of Portrait Prints.  The collection offers works printed in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and relates chiefly to the royalty, nobility and notable figures of the eras.

The 75-lot collection includes an engraving by Cornelis Massijs of King Henry VIII (Lot 235).  Massijs (or Massys, as his surname is sometimes spelt) was born in Antwerp but was banished from the city later in life.  While living in exile in England he produced this print in 1544, which was reprinted in the year of the King’s death.  It is a contemporary image of the Tudor King late in life, portraying Henry VIII with emphasis on his authority.  Massijs shows his imposing figure and carefully designed clothes, wearing an elegantly embroidered doublet and a sumptuous fur collar. The full-frontal pose is probably loosely based on Hans Holbein’s portrait of the sitter a decade earlier.

Another impressive engraving in the sale (Lot 240) depicts Queen Elizabeth I standing full length, holding an orb and sceptre.  Anthony Griffiths in The Print in Stuart Britain states: “This is the finest of the engraved portraits of Queen Elizabeth.  It was published soon after her death in 1603, as is shown by the chronogram in the upper left.”  The engraving is after Isaac Oliver, a miniaturist born in Rouen and brought to England as a child (for a portrait of the artist, see Lot 232).  This print is the culmination of the partnership between Hans Woutneel in London and Crispijn van de Passe I, then in Cologne.

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
Lot 240: Engraving by Crispijn van de Passe after Isaac Oliver, Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Crispijn van de Passe the Elder was a Dutch printmaker and founder of a dynasty of engravers.  The second generation of van de Passe engravers – Simon, Crispijn II, Willem and Magdalena – are all also represented in the private collection, including famous images of Princess Pocahontas (Lot 251) and the Gunpowder Plot Conspirators (Lot 259).  The Single-owner Collection of Portrait Prints serves almost as a Who’s Who of the 1500s onwards.  The majority of the collection centres around kings, queens and their families, represented from Henry VIII to Queen Victoria.  Other notable figures are also depicted in the portrait engravings, such as Richard [Dick] Whitington and his cat (Lot 233), the Elizabethan explorer Francis Drake (Lots 248, 249 & 250), Robert Dudley (Lot 246), Francis Bacon (Lot 260) and depictions of the curious character of Old Tom Parr (Lot 269), who reputedly lived to the age of 153!

This immensely interesting collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms, just off the A24 between Worthing and Horsham, on 21st March. To view the online catalogue for the sale, or to find out viewing times, visit

William Lionel Wyllie Etchings in Toovey’s March Auction

The Sale of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints on the 21st March 2012 includes a single-owner collection of works by William Lionel Wyllie, offered for sale by auction in 28 lots at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms.

Wyllie was born in 1851 into an artistic family, studying art at Heatherley’s in 1865 and at the RA Schools 1866-1869, winning the Turner medal in 1869.  He worked as an illustrator for The Graphic and exhibited extensively.  He was elected R.I., A.R.A., A.R.E., R.E. and R.A.  In 1906, Wyllie moved to Portsmouth, where he lived for many years.  His panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar hangs in the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.  Wyllie died in London in 1931.

He is best remembered for his maritime works and the W.L. Wyllie signature is almost synonymous with etchings of the River Thames and the Solent.  The fashion-led world of art, however, has a habit of changing and Wyllie was not always as collected as he is today.  In 1929, during the period of etching revival, James Laver in A History of British and American Etching described his prints as “a wealth of detail seen through a haze of romance.”  In 1981, Kenneth Guichard in British Etchers 1850-1950 states rather critically: “Only a few years ago print dealers shamefacedly produced them [Wyllie etchings] from bottom drawers at a pound a time, together with [other] near throw-outs.”  Today, he is a highly collected name and the prices achieved for his etchings regularly outshine those achieved for the works of many of his contemporaries, including some of the founders of the etching revival in Britain, such as Francis Seymour Haden.

William Lionel Wyllie etching, 'The City of London'
Lot 6, 'The City of London', trial proof etching by William Lionel Wyllie

In the selection of prints, Lot 6 is a true rarity for the William Lionel Wyllie collector.  ‘The City of London’ is an etching in trial state with only partially etched details, the rest of the image composed with pencil and watercolour in a much freer stylistic way.  This trial proof would have been used to map out the finished print and, as such, is a unique version of this image and carries a presale estimate of £400-600.  The collection also includes prints of the Solent, prints of military interest and prints of picturesque views along the Thames, many featuring London landmarks, such as Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  There is also one original watercolour in the collection (Lot 13).  Somewhat unusually, though, Wyllie’s watercolours tend to achieve the same price levels as his etchings at auction.

To view the William Lionel Wyllie collection (Lots 1-28) in our auction of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours and Prints, click here.