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The new team comprises specialist John Dabney, formerly director of 19th century European paintings at Phillips; cataloguer Diek Groenewald, formerly with Christie's in London and Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum; and assistant Ellida Minelli, a graduate of the Courtauld Institute.

"While our main specialisation remains Russian Art, we believe that supplementing that with Old Masters and 19th century European art can only strengthen both areas," said company director William MacDougall.

"Our traditional Russian buyers are also keen to build collections of European art, so we believe we can develop a successful presence in the area."

The firm's first auction in this category will be held in December.