By Terry Ingram, on 08-Jun-2013

A price of one million kroner - or five times the estimate - has helped offset some of the disappointment felt by the elderly Swedish vendor for being told a painting he had consigned was by Eugene von Guerard.


A price of one million kroner (hammer), $Au194,000 with premium - or five times the estimate - has been paid for Shipwreck off an Australian Coast by Eugene von Guerard at a Stockholm saleroom, writes Terry Ingram.

The price which with the auctioneer's buyers premium, took the total price paid to 1.225 million kroner (about $194,000) was paid at an auction house in Stockholm on June 6 for the sizeable 27 by 75 cm oil on canvas, catalogued as Shipwreck off an Australian Coast.

The vendor had inherited the work from his father-in-law who was, according to the auctioneer, a member of an eminent Swedish shipping family. Believing that it was the work of an important Russian marine artist, the vendor refused to accept the attribution.

This was despite being told of the correct attribution by three experts, the auctioneer, the auction house's painting specialist Mr Marc Maurie, and AASD's writer Terry Ingram.

The painting was sold at Stockholm's Auktionsverkt to an Australian buyer on the phone. 

The sleeper yet again proved the power of modern global communications to create interest in geographically distant objects as it was on the auction house's website, and picked up by

The signature of Eugene von Guerard was also present, together with the date, 1853.

The price would have been about the same if it had been sold as a work by the Russian - Armenian artist Ivan Aivazovsky whom the vendor thought was the artist, and had been sold as such, Mr Maurie conceded, although he had set the reserve very low at 150,000 kroner.

Aivazovsky is known to Swedish buyers but Von Guerard was not.

The Russian artist, who lived from 1817 to 1900 and who was a prolific painter of maritime paintings, has been caught up in the surge of the Russian painting market as new Russian petro-tsars entered the market, he explained.

Both artists worked in similar detailed German romanticist manner and the von Guerard could easily have been mistaken for the Russian artist.

The painting is a very dramatic portrayal of a shipwreck against the fiery red sky of presumably an Antipodean sunset.

The price exceeds previously prices paid for von Guerard shipwrecks in Australia but the only work that has come up did not have the colour and intensity of the work sold in Stockholm.

Mr Maurie said the auction house was very satisfied with the result.

He did not believe that the subject matter - a stormy scene as opposed to a tranquil one - put local buyers off.

Swedes liked their ships, which were once an important part of the Swedish economy, in both situations.

There was a buyer in the room (thought to be Swedish) as well as three phone bidders.

Mr Maurie said that the painting attracted bidding from three different telephone bidders one of whom secured the work. 

Von Guerard is possibly the most internationally collected Australian artist in his potential market than any other Australian artist. 

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber paid a record auction price of $1.92 million for the artist in 1996 when he purchased View of Geelong - a painting which he returned to Australia in an institutional sale several years later.

One shipwreck subject Shipwreck off the Coast has sold twice in the Australian saleroom for $118,000 and $94,000.

It was also a big picture, but not a dashing one, and this was some years ago.

About The Author

Terry Ingram inaugurated the weekly Saleroom column for the Australian Financial Review in 1969 and continued writing it for nearly 40 years, contributing over 7,000 articles. His scoops include the Whitlam Government's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973 and repeated fake scandals (from contemporary art to antique silver) and auction finds. He has closely followed the international art, collectors and antique markets to this day. Terry has also written two books on the subjects