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'Looted' antiquities return to Italy

A group of eight antiquities consigned to Christie’s has been returned to Italy after the items were identified as not having the necessary export and provenance details to be sold.

Christie’s said that it had co-operated with the Italian Embassy in London, as well as the owners of the objects, and the works were returned voluntarily.

The auction house stated that the works were “acquired in the past in good faith, but were more recently identified as not having the required, verifiable title, export or provenance details needed to proceed with a sale”.

The objects are understood to have been consigned by a number of different vendors and included a marble fragment from a sarcophagus in Rome’s Catacombs of St Callixtus, valued at approximately £50,000.

Italian officials said the items were looted between the 1960s-80s but that this was “the first case of such close co-operation between Italy and a private auction house”.

The works were put on display in a hand-over ceremony at the Italian Embassy in London that was attended by Italian culture minister Alberto Bonisoli.

Christie’s reaffirmed that it is “fully committed to the elimination of any modern trade in illicit antiquities” and said that “it remains highly unusual for works to be withdrawn from the sale process, representing less than 0.8% of the hundreds of items offered”.

Valentine card sells on Valentine’s Day

One of the world’s oldest Valentine cards sold for £5800 – appropriately on February 14. Dated to c.1790-1810, it went under the hammer at Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire, estimated at £200-300.


Valentine card sold at Hansons’ auction for £5800.

It was won by phone bidder Jakki Brown, the editor and co-owner of London’s Progressive Greetings, a trade magazine for the greeting card industry.

She will add it to her collection that includes the first commercially produced Christmas card that Sir Henry Cole published in 1843.

The Valentine – sold for around £7000 once the 20% premium is added – was found among a collection of around 200 mainly Victorian and Georgian greeting cards which belonged to the late Lawrence Randle, a keen philatelist and card collector who died in 2009. It is addressed to Ann, at Hartwell House in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Olympia revamp given green light

A £1bn plan to revamp Olympia London, including the home of the venerable Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, has been approved by planners.

YOO Capital and Deutsche Finance International, which own the 132-year-old west London exhibition centre, submitted plans to Hammersmith & Fulham Council last summer to transform the 14-acre site including the venue. Works begin from next year. As well as upgrading the existing spaces, the project includes the introduction of a 1500-seat theatre, two hotels, a four-screen cinema and 670,000 sq ft of office space.

John Hitchcox, chairman of YOO Capital, said: “We will achieve all of this with minimal disruption to the hundreds of inspirational events that will continue to take place at Olympia London during the transformation.”

Early golf ball hits £5000 at auction

More bogies than birdies have emerged in the difficult golfiana market of late but on January 30 a rare Robertson leather feather-filled ball took a top-estimate £5000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) at Mullock’s of Church Stretton.


A feather-filled golf ball sold for £5000 at Mullock’s.

Consigned for sale from a vendor in New Zealand, it was bought by an Italian collector.

The Robertson family of St Andrews made feather balls from the 1720s-until the 1850s when the cheaper gutta percha ball became dominant. Allan Robertson (1815-59) was recognised as the best ball-maker of his generation and among the finest players.

His death at 44 prompted the launch of the Open Golf Championship to establish who would succeed him as the champion golfer.

However, this ball, with the handwritten weight 28, was probably made by his father William c.1820. Back in 2004, a ball made by William Robertson sold at £24,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

Cambridge auction house gets rebrand

Cheffins, the 200-year-old Cambridge-based auction house embracing real estate and agriculture as well as fine art, has rebranded with a new logo and website.

The company dates from 1825, with its fine art department launching in 1982.

“The new logo, corporate colours and website gives us a sharp new identity and makes us more instantly recognisable,” Cheffins said in a statement.

The italicised Cheffins green-on-white logo has been replaced by a streamlined sans-serif white-on-navy and gold identity.

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In Numbers


The funds needed to be raised by February 28 by the City of Leicester Museums to keep The Wollaston Family painted by William Hogarth in 1730 on display in the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.

The painting has been on show there for the past 75 years but is now up for sale. An auction at Gildings of a new artwork by local artist Tim Fowler was held on February 19 to help.

‘The Wollaston Family’ painting by William Hogarth

The unframed ‘The Wollaston Family’ painting by William Hogarth (1730). Image: Private collection.