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Little-Known Work Brings Record; Turner Flops

July 15, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ In a turnabout of fortune at Christie’s art auction house Friday, a little- known work brought 16 times the artist’s record price but one by the illustrious J.M.W. Turner did not meet its minimum and was withdrawn.

The Turner, a dreamy landscape in oil called ″Cicero at the Villa,″ was among the last works by the English artist, who lived from 1775-1851.

It had been expected to break the record for the artist of 7.37 million pounds ($12.3 million) but the highest offer of 6.2 million pounds ($10.3 million), was short of the minimum fixed by the owner, Evelyn de Rothschild.

″Two Leopards Playing″ by the 19th-century Swiss artist Jacques-Laurent Agasse, on the other hand, sold for 3.85 million pounds ($6.44 million).

Agasse’s previous record was $385,000. He produced the oil, which went to a telephone bidder, in 1808 for an English patron.

″The market’s always full of surprises and sometimes it goes both ways,″ said William Hanham, a spokesman for Christie’s. ″We’re pleased that the Agasse has done so well and obviously disappointed about the Turner.″

One reason for high expectations about the 1839 Turner work was that most of his paintings are in museums.

Anne Montefiore of the auction house said Christie’s expects the painting to be sold later through a private offer from a buyer whose name was not revealed.

The previous record for an Agasse was set in June 1987 with the sale in New York of ″Lord Rivers Coursing on Newmarket Heath.″ Ms. Montefiore said interest in ″Two Leopards Playing″ was high because the artist’s works are ″very rare.″

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