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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Two paintings of Venice by Italian master Canaletto, estimated to be worth a combined 7-11 million pounds ($11.4-17.9 million) will go on sale in London in December, Christie's auctioneers said on Friday.
It is the first time the paintings, passed on by family descent since they were believed to have been commissioned in 1738, have been offered for sale.
The pair of Venetian views were commissioned as part of a series of four by Thomas Brand, an Englishman who made the Grand Tour of Italy in the late 1730s during which he is thought to have ordered the works through Canaletto's agent Joseph Smith.
Smith sold his art collection to King George III in 1762, meaning the Royal Collection boasts a group of paintings and drawings by Canaletto which Christie's says is unrivalled.
The first painting, of the Piazzetta di San Marco, is expected to fetch 4-6 million pounds when it goes under the hammer at Christie's old masters' auction on December 2 and the second of the Grand Canal is estimated at 3-5 million pounds.
The art market has recently shown signs of a marked slowdown after a long and spectacular bull run, although many experts believe old masters could hold their value better than post-war and contemporary works in the current gloomy economic climate.
"International collectors continue to show the greatest demand for rare works which offer impressive quality, condition and provenance, all of which are held in abundance by these magnificent pictures," Christie's said in a statement.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith