Joseph Wright of Derby, Study of a Philosopher (around 1765-69). Old Masters Evening Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 4 December. Estimate: £200,000-£300,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s
Joseph Wright of Derby likely created this work as a study for The Hermit (around 1769, also known as A Philosopher by Lamplight, now in the Derby Museum). It was originally purchased in a posthumous studio sale by Richard Arkwright Junior, Wright’s great patron famously known as “the richest commoner in England”. The study is from Wright’s celebrated early period of candlelit paintings, and temporary export bans have been placed on two such works from the late 1760s in the past two years. The bar on the first, An Academy by Lamplight (1769)—sold for a record £7.3m (with fees) at Sotheby’s in December 2017—has since been lifted. The second, Two Boys with a Bladder (1768-1770), valued at £3.5m, still awaits a verdict from the Arts Council England.