Detail of Sir Edward Poynter P.R.A. (1836-1919), Study for Perseus and Andromeda.  Estimate £120,000-180,000. Offered in Old MastersNew Scholars Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School on

Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of art to benefit Rugby School

Highlights from a sale of items from Rugby School’s collection include works by Lucas van Leyden, Lelio Orsi and Correggio, rare medieval manuscripts and important antiquities  

On 4 December Christie’s presents Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School, a carefully selected sale of approximately 200 lots that will encompass antiquities, Old Master and British drawings and watercolours, rare books and manuscripts, 19th-century paintings and Chinese ceramics from the collection of the prestigious co-educational school founded in 1567 in Warwickshire, England.

Rugby School has been generously endowed over its 451-year history, and is fortunate to have been given such an impressive collection of artworks, many of which have been held at the school for more than 100 years,’ comments Lucinda Holmes, Chairman of the Governing Body of Rugby School. ‘The decision to sell this part of the collection is aligned with the school’s commitment as a registered charity to use its resources to benefit current and future students.’

The auction is being led by a rare, black chalk drawing by the Dutch Old Master painter and printmaker Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533). The work, A Young Man Standing, remains the only drawing by the artist to exist in private hands. Others can be found in the British Museum, the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum.

Little studied and never published in its entirety, the collection of drawings at Rugby School consists mostly of works given around 1880 by Matthew Holbeche Bloxam (1805-1888), a distinguished antiquarian and himself a Rugbeian. A nephew of the fourth President of the Royal Academy, the great portrait painter and drawings collector Sir Thomas Lawrence, Bloxam acquired a considerable number of drawings from his uncle’s collection. 

These include an impressive sheet by the Italian Mannerist artist Lelio Orsi (1511-1587), Rest on the Flight to Egypt, with Saint Anthony Abbot, which will be offered in the sale alongside other fine Italian drawings, including a group of Neoclassical sketches by Giuseppe Cades (1750-1799), and Studies of Angels  by Antonio Il Corregio Allegri (1489-1534), for one of his best-known Renaissance altarpieces.

Another highlight is a recently rediscovered, brightlycoloured study by the British painter and former director of the National Gallery and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Edward John Poynter P.R.A. (1836-1919), for his 1872 Royal Academy submission Perseus and Andromeda, which was destroyed during the Second World War.

Two exceptionally rare English medieval manuscripts will also be offered — a hand-drawn copy of the 14th-century travel memoir The Book of John Mandeville, and a large Latin missal complete with its original binding.

The school will also be selling a group of important antiquities, led by a 6th-century Attic black-figured neck amphora attributed to the ‘Three-Line Group’ which shows the goddess Athena driving a chariot on one side, and Dionysus and Ariadne drinking together surrounded by satyrs, on the other. A beautifully painted wooden coffin lid, dating to the Late Period (circa 664-332) of ancient Egypt, will be a further highlight.

The selection of works, which will be presented in London, has been carefully curated to ensure that nothing intrinsic to the school’s history will be sold, and the auction’s proceeds (estimated to be around £3 million) will be used by Rugby’s governing body to benefit the school’s pupils. One proposed project is to creating a newly designated museum space for the remaining works, including the important collection of memorabilia which relates to the invention of rugby football.

Old Masters/New Scholars: Works of Art to Benefit Rugby School  will take place on 4 December 2018 at Christie’s in London.