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'Portrait on a White Cover' by Lucian Freud – £19.7m at Sotheby’s.

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Third-highest price for Freud at auction

A nude portrait by Lucian Freud (1922-2011) painted at the age of 80 sold for £19.7m at Sotheby’s latest Contemporary art sale in London.

The price for Portrait on a White Cover was the third highest for the artist at auction.

Estimated at £17m-20m, the auction house had arranged an irrevocable bid before the sale, meaning it was always bound to sell on the night.

At the June 26 sale, the competition that emerged was relatively cautious rather than spectacular as two phone bidders and another interested party in the room took the price up slowly. It was eventually knocked down to a buyer placing bids through Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art Alex Branczik.

Reclining nudes were a regular subject for Freud but this work, which was painted in 2002-03, was among the last that he created.

He completed only three further reclining nudes before his death in 2011.

The Freud work that immediately preceded the current painting, a portrait of a pregnant Kate Moss from 2002, sold at £3.5m at Christie’s in 2005, making a then record for the artist.

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Marketing chief leaves Christie’s

Marc Sands, who joined Christie’s as chief marketing officer in April 2014, is leaving to “pursue other creative opportunities”.

Christie’s said Sands had been responsible for the “strategic direction” for all its marketing.

Until a successor is appointed the day-to-day marketing activities will now be overseen by senior vice president, deputy CMO, Amy Wexler. She will report directly to deputy chief executive Stephen Brooks.

Damaged Qing vase takes £94,000

Down but not out, a smashed Qing porcelain famille vase sold for an unexpected £94,000 (plus 18% buyer’s premium) at Adam Partridge’s auction on June 28.

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Jiaqing (1796-1820) mark and period famille rose vase – £94,000 at Adam Partridge.

The baluster form vase with pierced stylised dragon handles was very large at 2ft 4in (68cm) high and finely decorated in enamels with a frieze of blossoming peonies, chrysanthemum and prunus within a lime-green border. It carried a Jiaqing (1796-1820) mark and was of the period.

However, as demonstrated by a number of photographs provided by the Macclesfield auctioneer, the vase was in poor condition. Badly broken and crudely re-glued across the body and the base, there were also significant areas of loss to the rim.

Legal battle over Giotto painting

A London art dealer is in a high court battle with Arts Council over the export of a Giotto di Bondone (c.1267-1337) painting valued at £10m.

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Giotto di Bondone’s Madonna and Child.

The c.1297 picture of Madonna and Child is in storage in London and was exported to the UK from Italy in 2007 following litigation in the Italian courts.

Kathleen Simonis later applied to Arts Council for a licence to export the painting out of the EU, which was refused in 2015.

The Arts Council maintains that it is unable to grant an export licence because the Italian authorities say the painting did not have the necessary licence to be exported from Italy in 2007, and are seeking to have it returned.

Barristers for Simonis argued that an export licence was required in 2007 following the Italian litigation.

The court case, which was heard on June 28, involves Simonis and the Arts Council.

Simonis has taken the painting out of Italy on a number of occasions under a temporary Italian licence while being the subject of litigation in the Italian courts.

The court reserved judgment, which will be handed down in due course.

In Numbers

£183.9m

The total (including premium) from the contemporary art auctions in London last week. As Christie’s staged only one day sale, Sotheby’s led the field at total sales of £125.3m, with Phillips generating £45.2m and Bonhams £4.42m. The combined total for the equivalent series last year was £106.8m.

Soviet spy cameras

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Hidden spy cameras such as this umbrella device (estimated at £100-120) are a key part of a group coming up at auction which is described as “absolutely the best collection of Soviet cameras in the UK and one of probably the top five in the world”. The sale is on July 12 at Aston’s Auctioneers in Dudley.