Nov 18th, 2015
World Famous Golf Painting
Up for auction
Words: The Brigadier
Bonhams is to offer the most famous golfing painting in the world: The Portrait of Henry Callender standing in a landscape, in the red coat of Captain General of the Blackheath Golf Club and holding a putter by the Leicestershire artist Lemuel Francis Abbott (1760-1803). It is estimated at £600,000 – 800,000.
Peter Alliss, writing in the forthcoming issue of Bonhams Magazine, says, “It is not often that a world-famous piece of golfing memorabilia comes on the open market, but such is the case with the portrait of one Henry Callender… It is truly splendid.”
The portrait, known to golfers the world over, is also one of the earliest depictions of the game. For the last 150 years at least, it has hung in the clubhouse of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club – itself one of the oldest golf clubs in the world.
It is being sold to raise funds for the acquisition of the freehold of its course and clubhouse from The Crown Estate – a one-off opportunity to ensure its future.
Royal Blackheath Golf Club can trace its origins back to 1608, shortly after the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns saw James VI of Scotland journeying south to London bringing, it is believed, his golf-loving courtiers with him.
The portrait’s sitter is Henry Callender, an expatriate Scot, who is depicted in the uniform of a Captain General of the Blackheath Society of Golfers. This style of uniform is still worn by Captains of the Society on formal occasions. The title of Captain General is an honorary one bestowed upon a member of good standing. This title is unique in the golfing world.
There are two antique golf clubs featured in the painting. Callender is holding in his right hand a mid-18th century large stout spoon with an exaggerated rounded back. The artist has shown the rear of the club with its large area of lead back weight. To Callender’s left is his metal-headed blade putter with wrap round leather grip. This is almost certainly the putter which is also included in the sale estimated at £50,000-£80,000.