News-Antique.com - Jul 08,2010 - Sir David Scott began collecting art in 1910 and over a period of 75 years amassed a large art collection that included 150 Victorian paintings, all of which were auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2008, more than 20 years after Scott’s death (1986). Scott was an eccentric aristocrat whose efforts to maintain a low profile meant that he was able to put together an extremely important collection of Victorian art at his Dower House, Northamptonshire residence in relative secrecy. Scott’s passion for art, the Victorian period in particular, is evident in a comment he made regarding one of the paintings in his collection. According to Scott:”I don’t think I have ever seen another picture by Somerville Shanks but if this is typical of his work I wonder why he is not better known, for it is really beautifully painted, the dress of the girl in the foreground is reminiscent of Sargent at his best and of course the whole picture is delightfully nostalgic, absolutely redolent as it were, of a day nursery of the 80s or 90s.” This comment is also evidence of how under-valued and under-appreciated the Victorian era is, particularly the work of Victorian painters.
The length of time that the paintings in the Scott collection had remained off the market made the sale even more enticing to collectors and connoisseurs who turned out in force to take advantage of the opportunity. “A Great British Collection” was the title given to the sale – a move that Sotheby’s hoped would distance the sale from the stigmas associated with the word “Victorian” and bring more people to the sale. At the time of the sale, in November 2008, the art market was still reeling from a major crisis of confidence brought about by the hyperinflated market for contemporary art, which led to many art market commentators making rather sceptical predictions about the sale. Because the market for Victorian paintings was dominated by a small number of passionate collectors and connoisseurs, there was particular concern when the auction took place due to the fact that the removal of even one of the main patrons of the Victorian era could spell disaster for the whole Victorian paintings market.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications