THE incomparable TEFAF Maastricht opened to the usual streams of visitors at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre but, unusually for the Dutch fair, an early big ticket sale came for a British picture.
Portrait specialists The Weiss Gallery of London devoted their stand at the fair to an exhibition of 20 early British portraits, and within the first few hours of the fair on March 15 owner Mark Weiss had sold the imposing centrepiece, The Ditchley Henry VIII, for £2.5m to a European private collector.
This recently rediscovered portrait of Henry VIII was commissioned by the courtier Sir Henry Lee, who entered the service of the Tudors during Henry VIII's reign and became a faithful courtier of Elizabeth I, for his home at Ditchley, Oxfordshire.
The 7ft 7in x 4ft 11in (2.31m x 1.5m) oil on canvas, c.1600-1610, is one of a number of copies of the famous Holbein portrait. Despite the lack of a firm attribution, it is thought that it might be the work of the Elizabethan portraitist Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, whom Lee commissioned to paint the well-known Ditchley Elizabeth I in the National Portrait Gallery.
The Ditchley Henry VIII is one of eight full-length depictions of the king with direct connections to the Tudor court known to have survived and it remained at Ditchley until 1933, when it was sold following the death of the 17th Viscount Dillon, the last descendant of Lee to own the estate.
It was then bought by Lord Brocket and displayed at Bramshill in Hampshire, but due to financial pressures he was forced to sell his collection at Sotheby's in 1952. It was recently discovered by The Weiss Gallery in a French private collection and the exhibition at TEFAF was the first time it had been seen in public for 60 years.
Other spectacular early sales for London dealers included an ancient Hellenistic Greek bronze anatomical cuirass c.300-400BC sold by Peter Finer to a US private collector for "a substantial six figure sum" and, with an asking price of €3.5m, a Crucifixion by Sir Peter Paul Rubens sold by Bernheimer-Colnaghi to the Van Otterloo Collection.
Meanwhile the London, New York and Hong Kong dealer Littleton & Hennessy quickly attracted a reserve from a US collector for a 14th or 15th century Longquan celadon-glazed meiping vase and cover priced at €3.2m.
Koopman Rare Art also chalked up two major sales on the first day of the fair including The Walpole Inkstand, the first of two treasury inkstands ordered by Sir Robert Walpole from Paul De Lamerie, that sold to a US private collector with the asking price set at $5m. The Chancery Lane dealer also sold a pair of George II candelabra by George Wickes, which once belonged to the 20th Earl of Kildare, to a private collector at £1.75m.
TEFAF Maastricht continues until March 25. A full report will follow in a future issue.