Lavery tennis match sells for €750,000


A painting of a Victorian tennis match by the Irish artist, Sir John Lavery, has been auctioned for £657,250 (€756,000).

The 1885 oil titled Played!!, one of the earliest known paintings of the game, was sold at a major auction of British and Irish art at Christie’s in London.

The painting, signed "J Lavery/Bath Street/Glasgow/" on the reverse, depicts a young woman lunging to return a serve as her opponent moves into the net.

The game of lawn tennis was barely 10 years old and all the rage among the British upper classes when Lavery produced the work.

The Belfast-born artist, better known for his portraits, had recently returned from France and wished to make his name through the depiction of figures in movement.

In 1885, he visited the home of a friend in the suburbs of Glasgow where a tennis court had been set up and was intrigued by the physicality of the game.

His naturalistic depiction of the players in movement was considered extremely avant-garde at the time. Another similar painting by Lavery called The Tennis Party, dating from the same period, hangs in the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

A lesser-known work by the Lavery, called Mary in Black, was sold for £61,250 (€70,400) at the auction.

Three paintings by Paul Henry: West of Ireland Cottages; An Old Man From Connacht and An Old Woman – also sold for £79,250 (€90,900), £34,850 (€39,100) and £34,850 (€39,100) respectively.

The star lot, a 1949 work by the British painter LS Lowry called The Football Match, sold for £5.6 million (€6.4 million), setting a record for the artist.

Lowry’s painting depicting tiny figures watching at a match on a pitch between terraced houses and factories with billowing chimneys had been expected to fetch between £3.5 million and £4.5 million (€4 million - €5.1 million)

Famed for his depictions of working-class life in Salford, Lowry painted only in his spare time while working for the Pall Mall Property Company in Manchester

Philip Harley, head of 20th century British & Irish art at Christie’s London, described the painting as “the ultimate work for passionate connoisseurs of Lowry’s work and of football”.