Christie's Old Master evening sale preview

July 4 2011

Image of Christie's Old Master evening sale preview

Picture: Christie's/Telegraph

It's hard to know where to begin with Christie's almost epic evening sale (Tuesday 5th July). What a stellar collection of pictures they have assembled. 

Let's start with the £20-30m Stubbs, Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath (above). Will it sell? If it does, it will double the existing record for a Stubbs, set recently by Sotheby's. I hope it sells, for the price will put old British art into the bracket usually reserved for contemporary and post-war works.

But, I wonder... It's a lot of money for (whisper it) a not particularly exciting composition. Perhaps it's because I find equestrian pictures rather dull in general (odd, I know, for someone named after a sodding horse), but is the picture really more enticing than, say, the beautiful Poussin that failed to sell recently at £15m-£20m? That said, click here to listen to Christie's John Stainton make a persuasive case for the picture. It is also in superb condition. Christie's seem confident it will sell, and I doubt they would want to risk another high-profile buy-in. So here's a daring prediction for you: I reckon it will sell, perhaps at about the £18m mark (and possibly to someone more interested in horses than art...). 

Christie's also have not one but two of the best Gainsboroughs to come on the market for at least the last ten years. Mrs William Villebois is the sort of picture one usually finds only in the Frick or Huntington collections. £4-6m may seem a bit high, but it might well do even better. Colonel John Bullock is hardly any less magnificent, and estimated at £3.5-5m. The question is, are there enough Gainsborough buyers out there to sustain two full-lengths at that sort of price?   

Other highlights include a del Sarto at £2.5-3.5m, a fine Henry VIII at £300-500k (disclaimer, formerly owned by Philip Mould Ltd), and a flamboyant Robert Peake full-length at £1-1.5m. The latter may be over-priced. Perhaps the most interesting lot will be the Michelangelo drawing at £3-5m. It's nice, but that's a lot of money to shell out for what is little more than a fragment in less than ideal condition. 

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