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At Masterpiece London this year Shapero Rare Books was to be found trading in both two- and three-dimensional birds.

Following the cross-collecting ethos of the annual fair, which ran from June 27-July 3, the London dealership paired historic ornithological illustrations by artists such as Jean Théodore Descourtilz (1796-1855) and Francois Levaillant (1753-1824) with contemporary taxidermy of similar species by the firm Darwin, Sinke & van Tongeren.

As well as making an eye-catching stand, the display led to several sales, such as the illustrations from Descourtilz’s Ornithologie Bresilienne as well as some of the models, which were priced at £15,000-35,000.

High-calibre clientele

Now in its 10th year, Masterpiece sits comfortably in the upper echelon of international fairs. Though among the most expensive for exhibitors, it pays off in high-calibre summer season visitors who come both to network and to buy.

That emphasis on cross-collecting means that a huge variety of offerings may be found even on the same stand. For example, Shapero mixed its traditional pieces with more modern offerings. A top sale was Project Airflow, a 1968-69 cast-polyurethane relief over lithograph by Claes Oldenburg (b.1929) offered for £95,000.

Other dealerships, such as Daniel Crouch Rare Books and Les Enluminures, offering jewellery as well as manuscripts, pitched up together.

Rooted in the traditional

Despite the presence of contemporary initiatives – the new Sculpture Series, for example, and the large Phyllida Barlow (b.1944) installation near the entrance – and dealerships, the fair feels rooted in the traditional art and antiques trade.

Wick Antiques was among those selling within the first moments of doors opening. It brought a catalogue of naval-themed objects, Britain on the High Seas, and a 1942 mask of Sir Winston Churchill caught a buyer’s eye almost at once. Offered for £12,500, it is one of a set of nine created by the politician’s cousin Clare Sheridan (1885-1970) and was offered on a green marble plinth.

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Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of William Charles Colyear, Viscount Milsington, later 3rd Earl of Portmore as a child, 1759, sold by Dickinson.

Other stand-out sales around the event included a 1759 portrait of William Charles Colyear, Viscount Milsington, as a child by Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) on the stand of Dickinson. It was a later entry for the exhibitor which early on sold works by Picasso and Poliakoff each for five-figure sums (see ATG No 2399).

Porcelain specialist Adrian Sassoon came with a mix of historic and contemporary works. It offered a rare Sèvres porcelain plate made for Madame du Barry in 1773 with Asian-inspired decoration, the first plate of this type for sale since 1925, for a price in the region of £125,000. It was snapped up early in the event.

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Koopman sold this Art Deco platinum ring set with a natural fancy yellow diamond flanked by smaller white diamonds for £65,000.

Koopman Rare Art also started strong when a trio of George II silver tea caddies with a ticket price of £195,000 was taken home by a private collector. The business reported selling objects at a range of price points during the fair, including an Art Deco platinum ring, offered for £65,000, that sold to a new client from Hong Kong and a Victorian silver teapot made by Charles Fox in London in 1840, which had an asking price of £4750.

Masterpiece London 2020 runs from June 24-July 1.