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The 149 per cent increase over the same period for 2005 is largely down to the €59.7m for the Decorative Arts collection of Claude and Simone Dray, sold by the Paris rooms in June. Take the Dray sale out of the equation and the rise falls to a much less spectacular, albeit still respectable, 30 per cent.

Announcing the “astronomic figure” at a press conference at their Avenue Matignon headquarters on July 6, François Curiel, President of Christie’s Europe, said that the Drays had decided to sell because of the strength of the market.

Analysis of the sales figures was followed by overviews from department heads and individual highlights sold in Paris or sourced in France to be sold elsewhere.

Christie’s have now consolidated their lead in the Paris market with ArtCurial in second position. The firms who sell at the Paris auction centre at Drouot announced a 20 per cent rise in sales for the first half of 2006.

By Anne Crane