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The selection, described by the auctioneers as a “small slice” of the original collection, which was formed in the late 19th century by Sir Julius Wernher, will be auctioned in London in two sessions with around 70 of the grandest pieces offered in an evening session on July 5 at King Street and a similar sized selection in their South Kensington rooms two days later.

Sir Julius formed the collection in the same spirit as his contemporaries the Rothschilds and J. Pierpont Morgan. It was housed originally at Bath House, Piccadilly, then the family’s Bedfordshire home, Luton Hoo. There have been a number of dispersals of varying size from Luton Hoo over the years, both by private treaty and at auction, including negotiated sales by Christie’s of Altdorfer’s Christ Taking Leave of His Mother and Bermejo’s Saint Michael Triumphant to the National Gallery in 1980 and 1995; and a two-day, 250-lot, £4.4m auction at Sotheby’s in 1995.

Last year Luton Hoo itself was sold and the remainder of the collection has since been in storage in various locations. Much of the proceeds from this latest dispersal, which is being sold by the descendants of Julius Wernher and by the Wernher Foundation, will be earmarked for the long-term preservation of the remaining pieces.

“It is very much hoped that the bulk of the collection will find a home in a house open to the public ... hopefully in a property owned by English Heritage,” said Christie’s chairman, Lord Hindlip, last week.

The main evening sale will feature Old Master paintings, including a Titian portrait estimated at £700,000-£1m, Renaissance sculpture and Mediaeval works of art, French furniture and tapestries and a particularly fine group of silver that reflects the turn-of-the-century collecting taste for the Germanic, Netherlandish and Spanish late Gothic and Renaissance silver-gilt. Leading this will be two late 15th century silver-gilt figures of St Christopher and St Sebastian, each of which is expected to make over £1m. They were given to the Cistercian monastery of Kaiserheim, north of Augsburg, and partly paid for by King Frederick of Saxony. A drawing in the British Museum shows that the St Sebastian figure was designed by Hans Holbein the Elder.