Have you ever had a client so out of touch with reality that they tried to pay you with something other than money?
Well, they wouldn’t be the first.
Charles I, the king who famously lost his head following the English Civil War, built up some pretty substantial debts despite owning one of the most impressive art collections in Europe. After Oliver Cromwell took over, Parliament decided that the art should be sold in order to recover some much-needed funds.
This is where we come to one John Embry, the dead king’s plumber. He was owed £903 (a pretty substantial amount by the standards of the day), so of course Cromwell paid him and agreed to recommend his services to any friends who needed pipework done.
Ok, that didn’t actually happen. Instead, Mr Embry was awarded 24 of the king’s paintings, including Titian’s ‘Saint Margaret’.
This particular painting is a two-metre tall depiction of the titular saint after her escape from the belly of Satan (as you do).
Do you think he got a bad deal? At the time, Saint Margaret was valued at £100 - Sotheby’s are now expecting it to earn £2m at auction!
Another piece in the collection, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, was given a value of £30. Just last year this painting was sold for a record-breaking £340m.
You could say Mr Embry got off pretty well, although the details of what he actually did with the art have been lost to time.
Worldwide co-chairman of Sotheby's Old Master Paintings Department Alexander Bell said: "The inventories and valuations of Charles I's collection compiled mainly in 1649 are unique documents that provide fascinating insights into the relative value of the works at this particular moment in time.
"The inventories record Saint Margaret at £100 - a little less than the more celebrated paintings by Titian, such as Venus with an Organist (Prado, Madrid) at £150 and the Allegory of Alfonso d'Avalos (Louvre, Paris) at £250, but more than the vast majority of works in the enormous and storied collection, including the now-world-famous Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci at £30."
Interested in seeing the picture for yourself? This piece and others from the king’s collection will soon be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts as part of the exhibit: ‘Charles I: King and Collector’.
Have You Ever Had a Client Try to Pay You in Something Other Than Money?