The date is key, made in a period when Skeaping – then ranked among the most promising young sculptors of the day – was married to sculptor Barbara Hepworth.
The couple had met in Florence (winner and runner-up respectively of the British School at Rome Prize for sculpture in 1924) and first exhibited together in 1928 – at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London, June 1928, and the Reid and Lefevre Gallery in Glasgow in September. In the latter exhibition Skeaping showed the alabaster head of a Burmese girl carved in white marble which is now in the Tate.
Jennie Fisher, head of modern and contemporary art at Dreweatts, says: “It clearly shows Hepworth’s influence. Marble works by Skeaping come onto the market very infrequently and the subject matter of this piece makes it particularly interesting.”
It was part of the selected contents of Abbotswood, a Cotswolds house occupying an idyllic position overlooking the Swell valley. The current vendor purchased the house in 1970 filling it with English antiques and fine art from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. The Skeaping marble had been acquired from London fine art dealer JLW Bird in 1994.
The previous record for Skeaping was the £58,850 (including premium) bid for the 1933 alabaster Pouter-Pigeon as part of the Evill-Frost collection at Sotheby’s in June 2011. It had formed part of the solo exhibition New Sculpture by John Skeaping held at Arthur Tooth & Sons in 1934.