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Christie’s November 27 evening sale found buyers for just 12 of its 30 lots, with the Lord Lloyd-Webber’s William Morris Aeneid manuscript (estimate £1.5m) failing to attract a bid and Tissot’s ambitiously-estimated Seaside (£2m-3m) knocked down for £1.4m. Christie’s final total of £3.9m was some £4m short of pre-sale expectations.

Sotheby’s found the Victorian market similarly patchy the following afternoon, though a higher proportion of pre-1830 pictures resulted in 19 out of 31 lots being successful and the final total of £3.7m being a less dramatic £1.1m below estimate.

Burne-Jones’ 1877 oil, The Cumaean Sibyl (estimate £800,000-1.2m), regarded as the finest work by the artist to have appeared on the market for a decade (compromised by its condition), failed to find a buyer. Spring Spreads One Green Lap of Flowers, secured by a lone telephone bid for a lower estimate £500,000, was the only one of the week’s three substantially estimated John William Waterhouse oils to find a buyer.

Earlier pictures, however, generated demand at Bond Street, with Thomas Girtin’s superb c.1800 watercolour, Jedburgh Abbey from the South-East, fetching a record £420,000.

Purse-tightening by hitherto freespending collectors of Victorian art such as Lord Lloyd-Webber, the US stockbroker Jerome Davis, and the Australian cleaning services magnate John Schaeffer was thought to be the main reason for the slump in demand.