15th Dec, 2021 10:00

Fine Interiors - Two Day Sale - Live Online

Lot 502


Sarah Biffin (1784-1850)

Sarah Biffin (1784-1850)
Study of feathers
inscribed in pen 'Drawn by Miss Biffin, 6th August 1812', watercolour
10.3 x 12cm;
together with a handbill advertising her as an attraction 'During The Races', describing her as 'born deficient of arms and legs, she is of comely appearance, twenty-eight years of age, and is only thirty-seven inches high'.

Provenance: The Peter and Pat Crofts Collection.

Sarah Biffin was born in Somerset with no arms and only vestigial legs. She was apprenticed to a man called Dukes who exhibited her as an attraction throughout England. The Society of Arts awarded her a medal in 1821 and the Royal Academy accepted her work. She is thought to have had the condition phocomelia, but taught herself to write and paint, holding the pen or brush between her teeth. She has come to greater prominence in recent years, although the majority of her paintings that have emerged at auction have been portraits.

The Earl of Marton died in 1827 leaving her without a noble sponsor, which caused her financial difficulties. Queen Victoria later awarded her a Civil List pension whereupon she retired to Liverpool and later married.

Three similar works sold at Sotheby's this year: one also dated 1812 - 7 July 2021, lot 11, and two further smaller examples - 27 October 2021, lots 65 and 66.

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Sold for £9,000

Condition Report

Discolouration to paper. Slight fading Some light surface dirt, especially in the lower right corner. A couple of small spots of foxing. There appears to be a very light vertical crease in the centre of the work, although this is only visible under close scrutiny. A very light wave to the paper visible near to the top edge. Probably original gilt frame.
A printed sheet verso dated May 23, 1840.



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Auction: Fine Interiors - Two Day Sale - Live Online, 15th Dec, 2021

In-person bidding is available, please visit below to book or call 01279 817778.

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We will be offering viewing by appointment only, to be held at our Stansted Auction Rooms, Cambridge Road, Stansted Mountfitchet CM24 8GE..  One hour time slots will be available from:

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Sun 12 Dec, 10am - 2pm 

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