Saturday - 13 February 2016

Prize lots appear as London’s autumn season gets started

13 September 2010Written by ATG Reporter

WITH the new auction season getting underway, the London houses have been rushing to announce their star lots as the treasures from aristocratic collections continue to emerge in the saleroom.

Leading the way is Ordination by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), one of five works from the artist's first Sacraments series currently on loan to the National Gallery from the 11th Duke of Rutland.

It will carry an estimate of £15m-20m at Christie's Old Master sale in London on December 7.

The Duke, David Manners, has an estimated personal fortune of £115m, according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List, but the work is being sold by Trustees of the Belvoir Estate, a spokesman for whom said the proceeds would be used for the "restoration and long-term preservation of Belvoir Castle and Estate".

The castle has been open to the public since the 1950s.

Poussin's first series of seven Sacraments were painted in the 1630s for Cassiano dal Pozzo, a celebrated collector in Rome, but were acquired by the 4th Duke of Rutland in 1785 despite a Papal export ban.

One of the seven was destroyed by a fire in 1816 and another was sold by the Duke's father to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1946.

Poussin's second series of Sacraments was painted in the 1640s and is now owned by the Duke of Sutherland, who has lent them to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

But with the National Gallery currently trying to raise £50m by 2013 to purchase Titian's Diana and Callisto from the Duke of Sutherland, it seems unlikely that public funds will be available to purchase the Duke of Rutland's Poussin should it sell to an overseas buyer and then be subject to a temporary export ban.

Meanwhile, Sotheby's have announced that on the same day they will be staging a special sale of important books, manuscripts and drawings from the collection of the late Lord Hesketh, which includes a copy of the world's most expensive printed book - John James Audubon's The Birds of America, estimated at £4m-6m - and a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, estimated at £1m-1.5m.

Published between 1827-1838, Lord Hesketh's copy of the Audubon book belonged to the early paleobotanist Henry Witham, subscriber number 11, as noted in Audubon's ledger, and is in excellent condition.

The 1623 First Folio is also in particularly good condition, retaining 451 out of the original 454 leaves. With complete text to all the plays present in the folio, it is one of only three textually complete copies in private hands.

By Alex Capon

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