2005 looks set to be a bumper year for single-owner sales organised by the London rooms.
Sotheby's will take the traditional 'sale on the premises' route this spring when they sell part of the contents of Easton Neston in Northamptonshire on May 17-19. The house has been the home of the Fermor-Hesketh family since 1535 (although the present Lord Hesketh is better known to many for his motor racing interests). The three-day auction, which comprises around a quarter of Easton Neston's collection and is predicted to make in excess of £5m, will feature around 1500 items: a typical mix of furniture, paintings, silver, European and Asian works of art.
Christie's, who have been making a concerted effort to grow the collections and house sale element of their UK business, are mounting over half a dozen stand-alone, single-owner sales at King Street in the first half of this year.
The collections of David Style and Sir Ralph Halpern have already been sold and next month they ring the changes with an Italian Royal offering. The private collection of Principessa Reale Maria Beatrice di Savoia, youngest daughter of King Umberto II, features a large quantity of personal effects and is expected to make up to £500,000 on April 22.
But the highlight of the summer season promises to be their July 5-6 sale of the collection of Portuguese financier Antonio Champalimaud. This is expected to realise £15m, which would make it Christie's biggest grossing summer season event since the £27m Longleat dispersal of 2002.
M. Champalimaud, who died last year, recreated a French hôtel particulier in Lisbon, filling it with French furniture, sculpture, Old Masters and export porcelain. Around 60 per cent of the total is expected to be generated by the paintings, the pride of which are the Italian vedute by Gaudi and Canaletto, most notably the latter's view of the Bucintoro at the Molo on Ascension Day.
Unique in the artist's oeuvre for its unusual vertical format, it was commissioned in the 1750s by the Hon. Peter King and purchased in 1973 by Champalimaud when Lord King's descendants sold it at Sotheby's. A price of around £5m is expected.
Champalimaud was a major benefactor to Portugal, having already established a medical foundation which will be the main beneficiary of this auction.
Finally, as Christie's furniture experts decamp to Dumfries House to catalogue a superb collection of English and Scottish furniture, there is always the tempting possibility of a blockbuster sale of top-flight rococo Chippendale later this year should the much-publicised dispersal of the Marquis of Bute's Ayrshire estate get the go-ahead.