img_59-1.jpg
The mention of the painting by Duccio in our 50th anniversary edition (ATG No 2509).

You have 2 more free articles remaining

In 1976, I was the purchaser of the painting by Duccio, not an American private collector as stated in your article.

I sold the painting to a European collector. Shortly after he acquired it the painting was published by a Professor White as not by Duccio but by his workshop. The collector was not pleased and asked me to sell the picture on his behalf.

I sold the painting to the Getty Museum but the export licence was refused and the painting was saved for the nation by Sir Timothy Clifford, the then director of the Manchester City Art Gallery. All credit to Sir Timothy because the painting is now generally accepted as by the hand of Duccio.

In 1978, I think I was the principal buyer at the sale of the collection of Robert von Hirsch acquiring paintings, sculpture and works of art for in excess of £3m.

Among my purchases was a painting by Van Gogh of a peasant working in a field for which I paid £250,000.

I quickly sold it to a private collector. The collector’s wife did not like the subject and another dissatisfied customer asked me to put it back in a Sotheby’s sale. I explained that it is not wise to go back to auction so quickly but he insisted. This time round, within a year, the painting made £675,000.

In 1988, I bought what I believe was then the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction, the so called ‘Dancing Faun’ bronze by Adriaen de Vries that fetched £6.8m.

The vendor had purchased the bronze in a job lot at Christie’s in 1951 for £7. The sculpture had been displayed outdoors unprotected from the elements in the owner’s garden for over 30 years. The owner’s garden had been open to the public at least once a year and the sculpture, he told me (he invited me for tea after the sale – his first words when I arrived were “You must be out of your mind”) had as far as he could remember never been remarked on. There were still traces of bird droppings when I acquired the bronze.

In 1995, Sotheby’s held a two-day sale of my gallery stock and my private collection in New York. I may have been the first dealer to embark on what was at the time considered a very risky enterprise.

You are not the first to want to eliminate me from history. A female colleague, when asked shortly before my sale by a collector with whom I had lost touch if she knew of my whereabouts, replied: “Oh, did you not know Cyril is dead; he died long ago.”

Cyril Humphris