Old Master Week. Past AHA student Lucy Speelman tells us about her experiences in the Sotheby's Saleroom
A gavel raps smartly on a mahogany podium; the crowd snaps to attention, looking up in anticipation. Are we in the midst of a court case perhaps? No: this is the evening sale of Old Master and British Paintings at Sotheby’s, and the only things on trial tonight are the pictures. The saleroom is packed – it’s Old Master Week, when the auction houses sell their very best works from that period, and dealers and collectors from all over the world converge on London to join in on the action. Many of said dealers and collectors are here tonight, competing for the very best of Sotheby’s offerings. A hand lifted here, an eyebrow raised there, and the bids go up in their thousands. As the lots go by, there are a few surprises. A (rather odd-looking in my humble opinion) French portrait of Louis XI, King of France, with no attribution surpasses its estimate of 400,000-600,000 to fetch £735,650. Another portrait with no attribution (this time of King Edward VI), catalogued as ‘Circle of William Scrots’, sails beyond expectations of 500,000-700,000, the bidding ceasing at £1.5 million.