Leicester

Leicestershire artist's 'most valuable golf painting' sold

Portrait of Henry Callender Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption Portrait of Henry Callender, standing full-length in the attire of the Captain General of Blackheath Golf Club

A piece of art believed to be the world's most valuable golf painting has sold at auction for £722,500.

The Portrait of Henry Callender, by Leicestershire artist Lemuel Francis Abbott, was painted between 1790 and 1798 and is thought to be one of the earliest depictions of the game.

It had been hanging in the clubhouse of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club in London for 150 years.

A rare putter, believed to be from the same picture, also sold for £62,500.


The origins of golf

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sketch by C A Doyle of a group of golfers during a game at Blackheath, south London, 1863
  • The earliest known reference to golf came from King James II of Scotland who, in 1457, issued a ban on playing golf and football
  • King James III in 1471 and King James IV in 1491 each reissued the ban on golf
  • King James IV then repealed the ban in 1502 and took up the game himself
  • Queen Catherine of England, in a letter to Cardinal Wolsey, refers to the growing popularity of golf in England in 1513
  • The first known reference to golf in St Andrews, Scotland, is made in 1552
  • The Royal Blackheath becomes the first golf club formed outside of Scotland in 1766

Andrew McKenzie, director of old master paintings at Bonhams, said: "Henry Callender was both connoisseur and sociable bon viveur and his charisma shines through this charming painting.

"The sale marked an incredibly exciting opportunity for golfing enthusiasts all over the world."

Lemuel Francis Abbott, born in 1760, had a number of his works displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1788 and 1800.

The portrait artist died in London in 1802.

His painting watched over the clubhouse's famous "Wee Dinners", where guests traditionally enjoyed haggis, neeps and tatties before hitting golf balls onto the 18th green from the dining room table.

Both the painting of the prominent English golfer and the putter went to the same anonymous buyer.

They were sold by Royal Blackheath to raise money for its acquisition of the freehold of its course and clubhouse from The Crown Estate to secure its future.

Image copyright Bonhams
Image caption A close-up of prominent English golfer Henry Callender

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