DESPITE the ever-increasing international attendance and breadth of disciplines at the fair, Dutch Old Masters still remain at the very core of TEFAF Maastricht.

View of Haarlem by Gerrit Berckheyde which was sold by Noortman Master Paintings for around €4.5m (£4.12m) at TEFAF Maastricht.

Each year, commentators look to early big-ticket sales of Old Masters as a bellwether of confidence at the fair. The opening day of the 2011 fair on March 17 saw the sale of this View of Haarlem by the Haarlem artist Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-1698) for around €4.5m (£4.12m).

The 16½in x 2ft (42 x 60cm) oil on panel was offered by Noortman Master Paintings, the Amsterdam specialists in Dutch and Flemish Old Masters and French Impressionists. Painted in 1671 and signed to the lower centre g. Berckhyde, the view of the artist's home town looked to have benefitted from a light clean since Noortman bought it in December last year at Christie's Old Master's sale in London.

Christie's had estimated the picture at £500,000-700,000 but, underbid by London dealer Johnny Van Haeften, it sold to Noortman for £2.3m (plus 25/20/12% buyer's premium), an auction record for Berckheyde.

By Anna Brady