Old Masters rule over London's art markets, all this week

Art by the Old Masters is dominating the collectors' markets, this week, as a number of high profile auctions take place in London.

The Big Three - Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams - are holding sales as part of Master Paintings Week which began last Saturday, July 3, and continues to Friday, July 9.

Promising works by the world's great, early painters, the auctions are running parallel with Master Drawings London - the latter featuring special expo's by 21 dealers in England's capital.

Tomorrow (July 6) will see one of Master Paintings Week's most anticipated sales: Peter Paul Rubens' powerful A Commander Being Armed for Battle, dated to circa 1613-1614.

Estimated at £8m-12m, the painting was hung in Althorp, the ancestral home of the prominent aristocratic Spencer family of which Princess Diana was a member.

Also for sale at Christie's from the Spencer collection is Giovanni Francesco Barbieri's epic King David from 1651, which carries a pre-sale value of £5m-8m.

Peter Paul Rubens' A Commander Being Armed for Battle (1613-1614)

Meanwhile, aside from Old Masters paintings, Sotheby's is tomorrow auctioning 21 rare pieces including decorative folding stools (circa 1786-1787) made for Marie Antoinette, Queen of France.

The stools are estimated at £150,000-250,000, while an engraved ivory inlaid rosewood table (circa 1596-1597) once owned by the Duke of Urbino is appearing priced £500,000-£1m.

On Wednesday and Thursday (July 7-8), Christie's South Kensington will auction the Spencer's collection of 19th-century horse-drawn carriages; while Thursday also includes the family's antique furniture, porcelain and art objects.

Sotheby's is also auctioning JMW Turner's haunting 1839 painting "Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino" on Wednesday, priced £12m-£18m.

Another highlight at Christie's will be the 16th Book of Hours prayer tome, opulently decorated for King Francois I of France and estimated at £300,000-500,000.

Meanwhile, Old Masters works aren't the only pieces doing well at auction - both Christie's and Sotheby's have reported booms of 139% and 60% in their sales of contemporary art (you can see our special report, here).


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