Perhaps Sotheby’s UK chairman Harry Dalmeny should have a few auctioneering lessons from actress Joanna Lumley.
On Wednesday, Lumley took to Christie’s rostrum with typically regal poise to sell off seven illustrations in aid of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, of which Lumley is a patron. “This is a year for nurses, so no matter who you are you’ll want a nurse and a crocodile in the same picture,” she said as she kicked off the bidding for Quentin Blake’s illustration of the charity’s mascot, Marvin the Marvellous Crocodile, alongside a nurse and children. “This is one of the best Christmas presents you could give or get. Treat yourself. Actually. when you come to auctions always think of yourself first, that’s what I do.” She sold the illustration for £2,200 to a “lucky person” in the room.
Meanwhile last night at Sotheby’s Old Master paintings evening sale, after knocking down lot nine, a landscape by Salomon Van Ruydael, as unsold at £60,000 (est. £80,000-£120,000) a red-faced Dalmeny suddenly said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have spent most of the year in my pyjamas in front of Netflix and have consequently forgotten how to conduct an auction, so I have done something a little bit wrong. If you don’t mind I will restart the bidding on lot nine.”
The painting then, bizarrely, sold for only £50,000 (£63,000 with fees).