Christie's eyes records with Rembrandt, Raphael

Fri Dec 4, 2009 7:51am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Christie's is confident the recession is well and truly over in the world of fine art, with a record old masters sale in London next week that includes important works by Rembrandt, Raphael and Il Domenichino.

The world's largest auctioneer is calling its December 8 old masters and 19th century auction a "landmark," and pre-sale estimates range from 45-63 million pounds ($75-105 million), its highest ever for such a sale.

"This auction promises to be a landmark sale for the art market," said Richard Knight, international co-head of old masters at Christie's.

"The (old masters) market has shown great stability over the last year and ... collectors continue to seize opportunities to acquire works which rarely appear on the market."

Unlike other sectors of the art market, notably contemporary and Russian, values of old master works have held up relatively well during the financial downturn.

The star lot on Tuesday is expected to be Rembrandt painting "Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo," painted in 1658 and unseen in public for nearly 40 years.

The last time it was sold at auction was in 1930 when it fetched 18,500 pounds at the time.

Its pre-sale estimate is 18-25 million pounds, meaning it could set a new auction record for the artist. The record currently stands at 19.8 million pounds (then $29 million).   Continued...

<p>A visitor poses with Raphael's "Head of a muse" at Christie's auction house in London, December 4, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>