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Mr Redburn will work out of London and New York and will liaise closely with Peter Lang, who heads Sotheby’s English furniture in New York.

Sotheby’s said Mr Child, a director of the firm and longstanding senior expert on English furniture, had resigned rather than work within the revised structure. However, his decision came after he was suspended by the company amid a row concerning two Georgian chairs sold to a wealthy Canadian collector at auction in 1994.

The buyer now maintains that the chairs were made recently. They were entered for auction by Cook of Marlborough and Sotheby’s have issued a High Court writ against the well-known Wiltshire dealers alleging deceit and misrepresentation. The auctioneers are also taking proceedings against the dealers concerning two further chairs sold in 1996, possibly to the same Canadian buyer. The four chairs are said to be valued at around £1.7m. Last week Billy Cook of Cook Marlborough told the Antiques Trade Gazette: “I have no comment at this point other than we are naturally defending this civil matter.”

Joe Friedman, who for three years was head of London’s English furniture department, is taking up a directorship at Historic Buildings Consultants.