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Brexit woes contribute to slim Old Master sales in London
09 December 2022
Scott Reyburn


“It was what it was,” says Nick Hall, an Old Master dealer based in New York, commenting on the quality on offer at Christie’s. Hall, like many trade observers, see how difficult it has become for Sotheby’s and Christie’s to present high quality evening sales of Old Masters in post-Brexit London in both June and December. In New York, where many of the key buyers are concentrated, the two main houses now concentrate their best consignments into one auction in January. “That’s where the market is,” Hall adds.

Sotheby’s and Christie’s New York-based experts were conspicuously active taking telephone bids at these latest London sales, which was hardly surprising, given the dollar’s current strength against sterling.

At Christie’s, Manhattan-based staffers Francois de Poortere and Jennifer Wright took competing bids for Jean-François de Troy’s superb quality, The Reading Party, signed and dated 1735, showing a trio of fashionably dressed friends entranced by a book being read aloud in a forest glade. De Troy might not be many people’s idea of an A+ artist, but this was certainly an A+ quality French 18th-century painting. De Troy made just 11 of these painstakingly observed tableaux de mode. Entered from the collection of the English industrialist Lord Weinstock, it topped Christie’s sale with a price of £2.9m against a low estimate of £2m.

“De Troy’s tableaux de mode are among the most beautiful French rococo things,” Hall says. “And they’re very rare. Whoever bought that, bought a very good painting.”

It says a lot about the current state of the art market—and our culture generally—that this museum-quality masterpiece of 18th-century French painting made exactly the same auction price in dollars ($3.6m) as the record paid in March for a two-year old canvas by Flora Yukhnovich inspired by an 18th-century French painting.


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Digging deep for Old Master treasures: mixed results at London sales as dearth of ‘good material’ continues
08 July 2022
Scott Reyburn


“Short on quality, short on interest,” says Nicholas Hall, a dealer in Old Master paintings based in New York, commenting on Sotheby’s Wednesday evening auction. Last month at the rescheduled TEFAF fair in Maastricht, Hall confirmed the private sale of a rare circa 1495 Vittore Carpaccio panel of the Virgin and Child With Saints Cecilia and Ursula, with an asking price of between $10m and $15m. “It’s a gamble selling at auction, and people don’t like the odds at the moment,” adds Hall, a former specialist at Christie’s.


It was a similar story with the small, ethereal Fragonard canvas, The Fountain of Love (around 1784), which hadn’t been on the market since 1988 and sold for £718,200, again on the telephone. “It was a bargain,” says Hall, who was one of several underbidders.

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