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Christie’s say the change comes as part of their current review of their “international management structure”. There has been speculation that Joffre’s handling of the Paris office was judged too independent by the firm’s management.

Curiel, the son of a Drouot silver dealer who has piloted Christie’s to international pre-eminence in the jewellery field, is an experienced auctioneer and a qualified commissaire-priseur. His appointment, with France’s auction reform expected to come into effect later this year, will be interpreted as a bullish signal from the French-owned auction-firm.

Christie’s chief executive Ed Dolman said Christie’s viewed “the opening of the French market with great enthusiasm” and described Curiel’s appointment as “a natural extension” to his role as Chairman of Christie’s Europe, adding: “He will now expand his focus to include primarily France.”