Cupar artist’s work may net £200,000

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A CLASSIC painting by a renowned Cupar artist is expected to fetch up to £200,000 at auction next month — but the identity of its “handsome” central figure is still stumping experts.

‘Skaters, a Scene on Duddingston Loch near Edinburgh’ is one of Charles Lees’ finest works and will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on May 17.

If the scene seems familiar, it may be because Lees studied under fellow Scottish artist Sir Henry Raeburn, creator of the iconic Victorian oil painting ‘The Skating Minister’, which also uses a frozen Duddingston Loch as its backdrop.

But while there is no doubt about that work’s subject — its full title reveals the minister in question to be Rev Robert Walker — art historians are struggling to pin down the identity of Lees’ well-dressed, skilful skater.

Michael Grist, Scottish art expert at Sotheby’s, told the Fife Herald it was unlikely the mystery would ever be solved.

He said: “Lees painted Duddingston Loch on several occasions and this figure appears in a number of them.

“He may simply be a handsome member of the Edinburgh Skating Club, or he could be an artist’s model — unfortunately we’ll probably never know.”

Lees was born in Cupar in 1800 and died at the age of 60.

He was well known in his day for his large-scale paintings of outdoor sporting scenes.

‘Skaters’, painted in 1854, depicts a chaotic winter’s afternoon on Duddingston Loch, with skaters hurtling across the ice in the background and a busy confectionery stall in the foreground.

The work is being sold by the daughter of a Scottish collector and has been given an estimate of between £100,000 and £200,000.

Mr Grist added: “We hope this painting will go beyond the mid-estimate and if there’s enough interest it could even go over the high end — who knows?”