Ernst Chain

Ernst Chain (1906-79) and his Nobel Prize medal which is offered at Bonhams.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Penicillin pioneer Nobel Prize on offer

A Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that was awarded for work on developing penicillin is coming to auction on June 21 at Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts sale.

Although Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, its widespread practical application was not immediately realisable. It took the work of Howard Florey (1898-1968) and Ernst Chain (1906-79) in the late 1930s-40s to isolate and concentrate the element in penicillin that kills the bacteria and make it into an effective and manufacturable drug. They were awarded the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Chain’s medal will be estimated at £300,000-500,000.

Cuttlestones closes Wolverhampton

Cuttlestones is to close its Wolverhampton saleroom next month but will continue to operate from its Penkridge, Staffordshire, premises.

The auction house said Wolverhampton Auction Rooms Ltd will cease trading and close on July 31. In a statement the firm said: “This decision has been taken reluctantly due to long-standing staff retiring and difficult trading conditions in Wolverhampton.”

Its existing full-time staff will be transferred to its Penkridge auction rooms and it will relaunch its website.

The last Wolverhampton sale is on July 6.

Ben Gamble, Cuttlestones’ managing director and head auctioneer, thanked all the firm’s clients over the past 15 years.

Rediscovered Fra Angelico for sale

Fra Angelico panel

The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John the Baptist and the Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross by Fra Angelico, estimated at £4m-6m at Christie’s.

A rare opportunity has come up to buy a Fra Angelico at auction. The c.1419-24 panel rediscovered in 1996 is up for sale at Christie’s.

The Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John the Baptist and the Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross has an estimate of £4m-6m ahead of the sale on July 6 during the Old Masters sale as part of Classic Week London.

The “pioneering early work” of Fra Angelico was rediscovered and published by Francis Russell, Christie’s UK deputy chairman, in the Burlington Magazine in May 1996. The tempera on gold-ground poplar panel picture had previously been ascribed to Lorenzo Monaco, in whose Florentine workshop Fra Angelico is thought to have trained.

Originally the centre of a devotional triptych commissioned by an unknown patron, the picture is thought to have been acquired by the 2nd Lord Ashburton who died in 1864 and has subsequently passed by descent.

The picture will be on public view in New York from June 10-14, before returning to London for the Classic Week pre-sale exhibition on July 1-6.

New premises for Bamfords

Bamfords has moved into its new premises in Spondon, Derbyshire.

James Lewis, Bamfords' director, said: "After a year of designing, planning and building, we are there. It is bigger, better and designed for the post Covid era."

The premises, at 46 Nottingham Road, DE21 7NL, is located between Derby and Nottingham. It includes: a 3000sq ft two-storey entrance atrium where lots will be permanently on display; two large salerooms where sales will alternate; a third
specialist saleroom; valuation rooms and courier collection areas.

The new venue opened on June 11 and hosts Bamfords' biggest auction in 10 years on June 13-16.

Sotheby’s NY move to ‘museum mile’

The Breuer Building

The exterior of The Breuer Building, Sotheby's new home (from 2025) in New York. Photo: Max Touhey.

Sotheby’s New York will move its headquarters to the Breuer building, currently occupied by The Frick Collection.

The building has been sold by the Whitney Museum of American Art to Sotheby’s, which will take on the 945 Madison Avenue premises in September 2024, ready to open in 2025.

The Upper East Side is in an area known as ‘museum mile’ due to the number of institutions that call it home.

The Modernist (now considered Brutalist) building was designed by Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer and completed in 1966 to house the Whitney. The Whitney left in 2015 and The Metropolitan Museum of Art moved in to create The Met Breuer. Then in 2021 The Frick Collection moved in temporarily, naming it Frick Madison. The Frick will move back to its permanent home on East 70th street once its renovation is complete.

Sotheby’s said it will retain ownership of its current headquarters at 1334 York Avenue (which it has operated from since 1980) and will remain there until its new galleries open at the Breuer.

Stolen medieval panel is returned

Nuremberg School panel

One side of the c.1480 Nuremberg School panel, depicting St Nicholas of Bari, St James of Tarentaise and St Germanus of Paris.

A 15th century double-sided painted panel stolen from York Art Gallery in 1979 has been returned after it re-emerged at a Dorset auction.

It had been due to be offered at Duke’s of Dorchester in November last year. However, at the last minute a Duke’s specialist realised that the screen may be the one taken from York and it was withdrawn from auction pending further investigation.

The vendor was unaware of the panel’s history, having inherited it recently from a relative, but they were happy to return the painting once its provenance was revealed.

Duke’s worked with Art Loss Register (which offered its services on a pro-bono basis). Research confirmed it was the missing c.1480 Nuremberg School artefact.

The panel was one of a pair donated to the gallery by the prominent collector, FD Lycett Green in 1955. Both had been on permanent display for the majority of time between their donation until the theft.

It will now be checked by a conservator before it is reunited with its sister panel in York.

Most read

The most clicked-on stories for week June 1-7 on

1 The mysterious artist in high auction demand

2 Stolen 15th century altar panel returned to York museum after 43 years

3 Latest Jennifer Lee top price at auction pushes studio potter close to Rie and Coper levels

4 Symbol of a Victorian secret society emerges at Norfolk auction

5 Doulton delights packed in floor to ceiling

In Numbers

Pablo Picasso picture

Buste de femme by Pablo Picasso from 1971 sold at €3.4m (£2.9m) at Van Ham.

Image copyright: Van Ham Kunstauktionen | Saša Fuis Photographie


The hammer price of Buste de femme by Pablo Picasso from 1971 (£2.9m). It sold at German auction house Van Ham, setting a house record for the firm which also celebrated its 500th auction in Modern and Contemporary art. The picture was estimated at €1.5m-2.5m in its June 5 sale.