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
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
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
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
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