Losing your shirt on Lely

July 7 2011

Image of Losing your shirt on Lely

Picture: Sotheby's

Well, that's a million quid down the toilet. Lely's full-length portrait of Nell Gwyn (above) failed to sell last night at Sotheby's, where it had an estimate of £600-800,000. It had previously sold for over £1.5m in 2007 at Christie's, where it had solicited just one offer.

The picture is perhaps a salutary lesson in buying at auction. Auction estimates do not necessarily reflect an item's value. Some auction houses like to place high estimates on a picture with the express intention of selling it only to a single bidder at the lower estimate. But if you ever find yourself the only bidder on a picture, be very careful... 

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