Object lessons: from a potentially record-breaking Gérôme to a painting commissioned by a whiskey distillery

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Riders Crossing the Desert (1870). Highlights from the Najd Collection, Sothebys, London, 22 October. Estimate: £3m-£5m

The French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme was fascinated by Egypt and the Middle East, and the paintings he produced of the region marry a precise academic realism with a hefty dose of Orientalist fantasy. Riders Crossing the Desert comes from an anonymous Middle Eastern collector who amassed one of the worlds largest private Orientalist collections during the 1980s, when European and US buyers dominated the field—today, many come from the Middle East, encouraged in part by institutions in the region which are forming Orientalist collections. Conversely, Gérôme has fallen somewhat out of fashion with Western collectors, and Artnets price database shows that prices for his work—which reached a peak at Sotheby's London with the sale of Femme Circassienne Voilée (veiled circassian beauty, 1876) in 2008 at just over £2m with fees—have failed to make a post-recession comeback. This, then, looks a big price for the riders but, as Claude Piening, Sothebys head of 19th century European paintings, says, the depiction of "stoic travellers" was "chosen to hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York [on loan] for almost a decade, from 2007 to 2016."

Thomas Hart Benton, Whiskey Barrels (1945). American and European Art, Hindman, Chicago, 17 October. Estimate: $600,000-$800,000

Thomas Hart Bentons social realist paintings were formative for the Regionalism movement in American art during the 1920s and 30s. The avid Leftist cashed in on some capitalist dollars, however, when he took commissions for big brands like American Tobacco and Esso. Whiskey Barrels, created for the Peoria, Illinois-based Hiram Walker liquor company—once the largest distillery in the world—was reproduced as a full-page ad in Life magazine, promoting Imperial Whiskey (now Makers Mark), the first whiskey to pioneer the barrel-ageing technique. The painting was stored and forgotten until it was recovered in a Canadian warehouse in the 1980s. Since then, it has hung in the Makers Mark Kentucky distillery board room.

Cedric Morris, Foxgloves (1932). Modern British and 20th CRead More – Source