A glowing Fitz Hugh Lane painting, “Manchester Harbor,” whose existence has long been known but whose whereabouts was not, brought a record breaking $5,506,000 at Skinner’s this past Friday, November 19. Bidding on the signed 1853 painting opened at a modest $475,000 and it evolved into a duel between two phone bidders and a dealer in the room. Michael N. Altman bidding in the room prevailed. He was buying for a client.
The picture, an exquisitely detailed rendering of the harbor at sunrise, a vista that can be seen today, is considered by many to be the best of Lane’s work. Skinner’s paintings director and vice president Colleene Fesko said simply, “It is museum quality.”
Not only was the painting a record for Lane whose last picture sold for $1.5 million less, it is also a record price for any object sold in New England. It is also the most expensive object ever sold at Skinner. The sale totaled slightly less than $8 million, Skinner’s best ever.
The painting was consigned by a West Coast couple in whose Boston family the painting had descended since its original purchase from the artist. They got in touch with Fesko who established herself as the go-to person for Fitz Hugh Lane with the 1997 record of $3.85 million for “View of West Beach, Beverly, Massachusetts, Sunset” and a prior (November 1996) record of $3,302,500 for Lane’s 1858 “Sunset at Gloucester Harbor.” A complete report of the sale will appear in a future issue. -FM