THE first working of William Powell Frith’s famous panorama Derby Day will go up for auction next week, after being recently rediscovered in an American beach house.
Experts say that the oil painting could reach up to £500,000 when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s in London. It was recently discovered in an unlocked beach hut in New England, where it reportedly hung for at least 50 years, its owners oblivious to its value.
The Yorkshire-born artist was well known for his panoramic snapshots of Victorian life.
His depiction of the Derby Day race which took place at Epson Downs is widely regarded as one of his most iconic pieces.
Peter Brown, director of Victorian pictures at Christie’s, believes that the piece carries with it significant importance due to its success in capturing a specific and unique moment in British history.
He said: “It was the first time, in the coming of the railways, that so many different people could get into one place, and this is reflected in the picture.
“It includes so many different groups and so many scenes that wouldn’t normally be together.
“You have got aristocrats in the same scene as country bumpkins, and that makes it a compelling whole.”
When the final version of the panorama was unveiled at the Royal Academy in 1858, it was so popular that it was kept behind a rail to control the crowds.
But the first working of the piece inexplicably found its way to the United States, where it has stayed for the last half a century.
Mr Brown believes that despite its long and unexplained absence, the rediscovered piece will prove popular with buyers. “It should appeal to collectors across the world, as well as those in the racing world, although it would be fantastic if it could return to Yorkshire!” he said.
The piece will be available to purchase on Wednesday December 15 as part of Christie’s upcoming Victorian and British Impressionist sale.