Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

However, the biggest change is that for the first time Artcurial surpassed one of the two 'Anglo-Saxon' rooms. They left Christie's in third place by posting sales of €192m, generated from their Paris HQ and their Deauville, Lyon and Toulouse rooms as well as charity sales.

All totals are premium inclusive and some include aftersales.

Christie's 2014 auction sales in France were €180.7m, but they also took €21.6m in private sales, an increasingly important part of the business for all rooms. (Sotheby's and Artcurial do not release private sales figures).

As followers of these annual figures know well, what often makes the difference is a blockbuster single-owner auction. Christie's €342m sale of the Yves Saint Laurent/ Pierre Bergé collection in 2009 is the ultimate illustration of this, taking their figures for that year to a yet-to-be-repeated €455m.

Sotheby's March auction of the collection of Art Deco guru Félix Marcilhac may not have been in the same financial league as the YSL sale, but at €24.9m it gave a significant boost to the annual total. Two Contemporary art sales at Sotheby's outperformed it, however, jointly bringing in €51.1m.

Modigliani's portrait of Paul Alexandre single-handedly contributed €13.54m (€12m/£10m hammer) to a €39.5m Impressionist and Modern total, while in Tribal art, a field for which France is very much a world centre, the Frum and Alexis Bonew single-owner sales in December and some strong individual prices elsewhere provided another €25.9m.

Saleroom Moves

A long way behind the three leaders come a host of other individual French auction houses. Tajan took €36.4m, while Piasa, who moved in the autumn, combining saleroom and offices under one roof in the Faubourg Saint Honoré, reported sales of just under €36m. Piasa's figure was around the same as the previous year, although significantly their Design sales, an area they have been pushing hard, contributed half that figure at €18m, almost doubling the €10m sold in 2013.

Cornette de Saint Cyr, who also moved to new premises in the autumn, totalled €33.5m and Aguttes made €32.2m worth of sales between their Neuilly, Drouot, Lyon and Deauville bases, a 13% increase on 2013.

Other sales figures included Ader Nordmann on €20m and Beaussant Lefèvre on €20.3m (up 14% on 2013), while beyond Paris, the Ivoire group, which now numbers 11 provincial rooms across France, took €57m.

The group of auction rooms forming the cooperative who sell at the Drouot auction centre between them chalked up €374m worth of sales.