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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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