A 19th century oil painting, of the Louth to London Royal Mail coach, which was owned and treasured until his death last year by Van Cliburn, once described as ‘the most famous pianist on the planet,’ sold for $2,750 (£1,646) at an auction in America.
The 13 inches by 24 inches picture, titled Louth-London Royal Mail, by London artist Charles Cooper Henderson (1803-1877) was among more than 300 antique possessions of Van Cliburn which were expected to sell for around one million dollars at Christie’s at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York on March 5. It was snapped up by a mystery bidder.
Charles Cooper Henderson painted at least two pictures of the Louth mail coach, the other being titled A mishap on the Louth to London Royal Mail Coach, and was best known for his coaching scenes, two of which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, in 1840 and 1848.
In her Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists, Sally Mitchell said: “Henderson was one of the major coaching painters of the 19th century and it is for his coaching scenes he is chiefly remembered, although he did occasionally paint hunting scenes and horse portraits. His horses are painted with considerable strength, delicacy and fluidity. They have good speed and forward movement. The wheels and coach as well as the horses are usually well mud splattered in a very distinctive style giving a greater feeling of urgency than most of his contemporaries.”
Van Cliburn – who owned the Louth mail coach painting until his death last year – became ‘the most famous pianist on the planet’ at the age of 23, in 1958, when at the height of the Cold War, he won the first Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.
When he returned to America he was greeted by President Eisenhower and also became the first classical musician to be honoured with a ticker-tape parade in New York. His RCA disc of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto was the first classical record to go platinum by selling more than one million copies.
He was 78 when he died on February 27, 2013.