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The veteran fair, organised by  Expocts, started in the 1960s and is one of Italy's longest established events. It takes place every two years and is always a good-looking event in terms of the individual objects and overall display. Since the last staging in 2002 the organisers have given the fair a facelift. They have set up a new upper floor of lofty stand spaces grandly set out in a series of eight arms radiating from the central escalator and the number of exhibitors has mushroomed from 90 in 2000 to almost 140. 

Although billed as international, this is essentially a national, albeit grand national, event. The vast majority of the exhibitors are Italian, Italian antiques predominate and the visitors, too, are largely drawn from Italy (although like the standholders they come from across the country). The 2004 fair had plenty of variety and seemed to be of very high quality: if Italian Old Masters, early works of art and furniture predominated, there was still room for selections of Art Deco, Asian artefacts, jewellery, carpets and 19th century paintings. 

There was even a lone representation of tribal art, a field which the exhibitors  Denise and Beppe Berna of Bologna explained was very much still developing in Italy (many of their clients are American). 

As well as high standards of overall presentation, many individual stands had made a real effort to catch the eye with displays, likePiva of Milan's recreation of the  studiolo of Giulio de Taja. But, however well a fair is presented, it is sales that count and when I visited the fair on the final Friday things looked very quiet. This may not be the busiest time for any fair and things had been more lively earlier on the run (the total gate for the nine days was 18,000). It was also one of four days that coincided with  MiArt, the Milan Modern and Contemporary art fair on show in the Fiera's other pavilions. One suspects that results have been mixed, with some exhibitors making sales while others finding the going hard. More than one exhibitor here ob-served that the current downbeat economic outlook and concerns about world terrorism meant people's priorities lay outside antique buying, something reflected in the very selective buying mood seen at the recent Italian auctions.

One of the handful of overseas exhibitors at the  Milano Antiquariatowas the Faubourg St Honoré's  De Jonckheere, who had hot-footed it to the Fiera from Milan's other spring antiques fair, the MIFAS, held from April 17-25. The Paris dealer's North European picture selection stood out dramatically set amongst so much Italian art. They said they were happy with things, had made some sales and praised the knowledge of the clientele, an observation that I have heard before from exhibitors at this event. 

Singling out just one of the many eye-catching exhibits at this fair, this highly elaborate 19th century Piedmontese centre table with musical automaton base  pictured right was a star exhibit on the stand of Turin's  Luca Burzio. This tour de force of multi media furniture-making, with its elaborate marquetry and small scale carved ivory mounts, was a royal commission by Carlo Alberto and Maria Theresa of Savoy to celebrate the marriage of their son Victor Emanuel and Maria Adelaide of Austria in 1842. The rich iconography celebrates the history of the house of Savoy with, for example, views of the family's summer residences inlaid on the pullout flaps to the frieze drawers. Formerly in the Palazzo Reale in Turin, the piece had left the palace at some point in the last century and the Turin dealer had purchased it not in Turin or even in Italy but in Sotheby's London rooms. Shown at the fair with a temporary import licence, the piece had provoked interest from a Piedmont museum and, interestingly, from an English customer, Burzio was still hoping to finalise a sale when I visited.