Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Canalettos to go under the hammer

The Piazza di San Marco, Venice, looking West With The Liberia (left) and The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking North-West From The Ca Corner To The Ca Contarini degli Scrigni, With The Campanile Of Santa Maria della Carita, by Canaletto.

Two "magnificent" masterpieces by the Italian artist Canaletto could fetch up to 11m when they go under the hammer in London later.

The two paintings, which have never been seen at auction before, will be offered at Christie's Old Masters sale.

Auctioneers hope the views of Venice will fetch about 5m each.

But an auction of Impressionist works fell well short of expectations at auction in Paris on Monday, seen as a further sign of a faltering art market.

These two quintessential views by Canaletto were painted while the artist was at the peak of his artistic powers
Richard Knight, Christie's

Christie's in Paris raised 7.67m euros (6,54m) at its evening sale of works by artists like Pablo Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

It had originally valued the collection at 20m euros (17.06m).

But Richard Knight, of Christie's Old Master Department in London, said collectors were still showing a strong interest in rare pieces, such as the two Canalettos.

"These two quintessential views by Canaletto were painted while the artist was at the peak of his artistic powers and are extraordinary pictures, not only for their exceptional quality and condition, but also for their provenance which has seen them passed down the same family since they were presumably commissioned in the 1730s," he said.

"International collectors continue to show the greatest demand for rare works which offer impressive quality, condition and provenance, all of which are held in abundance by these magnificent pictures."

'Excessive' estimates

The sale in Paris on Monday featured the collection owned by French fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, who died in 1946.

The highest-selling work in the sale was Renoir's Woman with a Parasol Sitting in the Garden, which fetched 1.16m euros (983,450), just below estimate.

Among the eight paintings that failed to find a buyer was Renoir's The Tapestry in the Park, and work by Edgar Degas, Eugene Boudin and Camille Pissarro also stayed on the shelf.

"Unsold works are the reflection of estimates considered excessive by the current market, while those paintings with reasonable estimates drew great interest from international collectors," said Anika Guntrum, head of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art department.



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