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The figure represents a 5 per cent rise on the same period in 2004, which was bolstered by a single event, the epic €40m André Breton sale.

When sales staged away from Drouot are included, auction turnover in Paris up to the summer recess totalled some €360m (£240m), with Christie’s again comfortably clear of the pack with sales of €49.3m (£32.9m), a rise of 7 per cent on 2004.

Tajan consolidated second spot with sales (including those staged in Monaco in August) of €37m (£24.7m). This was despite the departure of François Tajan to Artcurial, who recovered from a poor 2004 to post 2005 first-semester sales of €28.7m (£19.1m), up 20 per cent.

Sotheby’s sales in Paris rose a more modest 4 per cent to €21.5m (£14.3m), while Piasa, whose founder Jean-Marie Picard retired in April, dipped 15 per cent to €20.2m (£13.5m).

While this ‘big five’ stayed comfortably ahead of the rest, there were increased sales for three of the second-string firms.

Pierre Bergé & Associes posted total sales of €14.8m (£9.9m), with over one-third of that sum generated in Geneva, while fuelled by the runaway success of Eileen Gray’s Mermaid chairs, Camard generated €14m (£9.3m). Millon & Associés were up 22 per cent at €13.1m (£8.4m) and Beaussant-Lefèvre on €11.3m (£7.5m), were up 20 per cent.

• Meanwhile Christie’s have announced worldwide sales figures of £879m ($1.66 billion) for the first half of 2005, comfortably ahead of the $1 billion sales posted by Sotheby’s over the same period.

The figure is the highest half-year total in Christie’s history and represents an increase of over 25 per cent on sales made in the first six months of 2004.

The company attribute the growth to success in the boom fields of Contemporary and Asian art, but also in more traditional categories including Impressionist and Old Master paintings. Of the headline figure, £846m ($1.59 billion) comes from auction sales with the remaining £33m ($62m) made in private sales.

As a privately-owned company Christie’s are not obliged to issue more detailed finacial information.