1938NE04A.jpg
Sotheby's will sell the highlight of the Ambroise Vollard collection in London, André Derain's Arbres à Collioure painted in the summer of 1905, which is estimated at £9m-14m.

You have 2 more free articles remaining

The 140-lot ensemble will be offered mostly without reserves and is cautiously expected to bring around 3m euros (£2.6m). It includes works by Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Renoir, Picasso and Mary Cassatt, several of which were illustrated in Vollard's autobiography, Souvenirs d'un Marchand de Tableaux, published in 1937.

Highlights include Cézanne's oil portrait of Emile Zola (estimate 500,000-800,000 euros); Picasso's 1904 etching Le Repas Frugal (250,000-400,000 euros); and a Degas monotype, La Fête de la Patronne (200,000-300,000 euros).

The market-fresh ensemble first resurfaced in 1979 in the vaults of Paris bank Société Générale. It had been deposited there after Vollard's death by his associate Erich Slomovic, who was killed by the Nazis in his native Yugoslavia in 1942.

The contents of the vault remained untouched for 40 years until Société Générale were allowed to open the safe and sell the contents to recoup four decades of unpaid storage fees. The collection was duly slated for auction at Drouot (Lenormand-Dayen) in March 1981, and a catalogue published, but was called off at the last minute amid legal wrangling.

Now, 29 years later, Sotheby's say all legal challenges have been resolved and the works will be sold by agreement with the beneficiaries of the Vollard estate.

Until the arrival of Guillaume Cerutti as head of Sotheby's France in 2007, such an ensemble would almost certainly have been sold in London. As it is, Sotheby's have hived off the top lot for sale in New Bond Street on June 22: André Derain's Arbres à Collioure, a Fauve masterpiece painted in 1905 (estimate £9m-14m).

Sotheby's are unable to say if this psychedelic treescape featured at the landmark Salon d'Automne in September 1905, when the Fauve name was coined. Vollard bought Derain's entire studio soon after.