Pipe while you hike A walking stick with a mouthpiece is expected to fetch pounds 500-pounds 800 at Christie's South Kensington on Monday. It dou bles as a fife
Prices for anything Indian are going through the saleroom roof. The Indian economy is gathering strength and Bombay's millionaires are losing their inhibitions about spending.

At Sotheby's on Thursday, all eyes will be on 17 Asian lots, especially an 1809 volume of 24 plates of India, Africa and Egypt by the gentleman traveller and artist Henry Salt. It is estimated pounds 7,000-pounds 9,000, but could fetch much more.

Last month, Christie's first dedicated sale of Indian views and portraits, Visions of India, excelled expectations by raising a total of pounds 816,069 against an expected pounds 500,000: 92 per cent sold by value. In the sale, a lot of only three Salt colour plates, including one from the 1809 volume, fetched an astonishing pounds 3,450. The pre-sale est - a mere pounds 600-pounds 800 - had been considered rather bullish.

The Bombay smart set - successful film-makers, artists, publishers and suppliers to the burgeoning Indian consumer market - had packed Christie's viewing. Rich Indians have taken to spending the summer in Britain, and their wives, who often arrive before them, are becoming sophisticated bidders. Even old money is rising conspicuously to the surface.

Bestsellers are topographical views of famous Indian monuments such as the Taj Mahal. Original paintings and books illustrated by William Daniell (d.1837), whose style was imitated by the less accomplished Salt, are rocketing in value. The pounds 93,500 paid for his monumental six-volume Oriental Scenery at Sotheby's a year ago (est pounds 60,000-pounds 80,000) alerted the trade to a possible Indian boom.

At Christie's last month, Daniell's pencil and brown wash of the ruins of the fort gate at Currah, est pounds 300-pounds 500, more than quadrupled the est at pounds 1,725. A spirited oil painting of an elephant fight by his uncle Thomas, with whom he travelled around India, more than doubled its pounds 10,000-pounds 15,000 est at pounds 29,900.

Architectural views by indigenous painters of the Agra school, commissioned by senior administrators of the Raj for families at home, also doubled est: an Agra School ink and watercolour of the Taj Mahal of 1815, est pounds 10,000-pounds 15,000, sold for pounds 25,300.

When Dr Rollo Ballantyne asked Lucie Rie, some 20 years ago, whether he could buy one of her pots, she said: "You cannot afford my prices. You are only a poor NHS doctor." She charged him pounds 19 for one of her slender-necked vases. Dr Ballantyne's collection of 45 pots by Dame Lucie, who died in April, will be the finest at auction when sold by Bonhams on Thursday (6pm). The pounds 19 vase is est pounds 4,000-pounds 6,000. Also in the sale: works by Hans Coper, Ian Godfrey, Reginald Wells, Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew.

The walking stick with a mouthpiece in Christie's South Kensington's sale of musical instruments, Monday (5pm), doubles as a fife. It has rosewood joints, a turned knop and a later silver collar. Its user can pipe marches while hiking and then entertain in wayside pubs. An example of Scottish economy. More musical instruments: Tuesday: Sotheby's (10.30am), Bonhams (4pm). Wednesday: Christie's (10.30am).

In Brooks' sale of collectors' cars, Friday (11am) is a refrigerator, chassis number 1000328. No track record. But it is plastered with motor- racing sponsors' logos. Est: pounds 80-pounds 160.

Christie's modern Brits sale, Tuesday (2pm), has a private collection of 23 pencil and watercolours by Edward Ardizzone. Ests from pounds 2,000 to pounds 6,000.

For countrywide auctions and fairs, see page 15

Comments