We can finally reveal what has to be our best-kept secret of 2017!
Earlier this year, we were stunned and delighted to discover an extremely rare, Aboriginal drawing, ‘Toulgra’ by Nicolas Martin Petit. It sold today for £162,500 including auction house premium at Christie’s.
The drawing has clearly been on a remarkable journey - as have we! We were amazed to discover its identity. We could see the quality of its draughtsmanship immediately, but it was only on contacting the Australian Department at Christie’s that we realised its true importance and value.
Dating from around 1800, the drawing depicts the young Aboriginal resistance leader Toulgra, nicknamed 'Bull Dog', who went on to become the first Aboriginal convict – interned at Norfolk Island, one of the colony’s harshest penal settlements.
Why the drawing should surface unexpectedly in England, over two centuries after its creation, is in part explained by it being the work of the French artist Nicolas-Martin Petit, one of two draughtsmen on an exploratory voyage to Australia sponsored by Napoleon. Petit’s drawings, which have a directness and sensitivity unlike any previous images of Aboriginal people, were reproduced in a published account of the expedition, and are now in the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Le Havre. However, it is a mystery why this drawing, hitherto unknown, became separated and found its way to the West of England.
The drawing sold today in Christie's Topographical Pictures sale - an annual sale which features works by Western artists active in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia during the great ages of exploration, trade and empire.
For Somerset & Wood this sale is fortune-changing. It means we’ll be able to keep growing our exclusive online business, bringing you more original art that’s affordable for all. The Petit drawing might mark a new departure for the business in terms of value, but our ethos remains: to make original art accessible to all, particularly those who may be intimidated by more traditional galleries, while not compromising on quality and depth of research.
So many artworks have a fascinating and often unexpected story to tell. We feel privileged that we have been able to become part of that story for this important drawing.
Above: Christie's director Nick Lambourn | Photo: Liliana Zaharia