Provenance is simply the history of a picture, the past owners, if it has been exhibited, perhaps an earlier sales invoice, all of which builds a history and reassures potential buyers that this is the picture to buy.
The Sorolla picture that we are offering on Saturdayhas just such a provenance. It has been consigned by a local gentleman who can trace it back through his family to the 1930’s.
Once owned by Gerald Leedam O.B.E., it is listed in an insurance inventory back in 1937, and then by family descent to present owner, it has been examined and authenticated by Blanca Pons-Sorolla earlier this year. The picture comes with pukka credentials and will be included in Blanca Pons-Sorolla’s catalogue raisonné under inventory number BPS 18.
All this as is so often the case with provenance interesting, important but can be a little dry. However this picture also comes with a story as it has passed through the hands of some interesting people.
The above mentioned Gerald Leedam, was from a property owning family that may have sold land in earlier generations, Gerald still owned substantial land including a village in Suffolk. As a bachelor with money, he travelled extensively including 1930s Germany, where he lectured at Munich University. Within the family it was always said he was involved in espionage and while “being a spy” may be a little too categorical he certainly had the social standing to mix with useful contacts in German society.
On his death the picture passed to his niece, a formidable lady who during the war was in The Women’s Auxiliaries Territorial Service. She was in fact the senior NCO and was technically the Queens day to day boss, if that is the right word, and can be seen, or is just off camera on some of those famous shots of the then Princess working on military vehicle.
The picture then happily lived in the lady’s Kensington flat till it was bequeathed to its current owner.
This gentleman also has a few stories to tell and extensively travelled the world working for two large shipping companies, including stints the Far East.
So the owners of this picture all had stories to tell, and perhaps the new owner may have similar tails of adventure to tell over the dining table as their Sorolla rests happily on the wall eavesdropping on someone else’s life.