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The Independent Online
PRINTERS OF auction catalogues have had to be pretty nimble since the art market turned volatile. Both Christie's and Sotheby's gave short-notice instructions to reduce estimates in next week's Impressionist and modern paintings catalogues, following Christie's scary sale (only 50 per cent by lot sold) in New York last month.

Auctioneers have not dared to raise estimates for Impressionists since the 1990 crash, and have rejected tired stock - being rewarded during the past two years by consistent and impressive-looking sale totals of 70-80 per cent. Last November's London sales generated the impression that the market had recovered. But Christie's tumble in New York showed that the market will only snap up temptingly-estimated star lots.

In this most richly endowed week of the auction calendar, Sotheby's, Tuesday (7pm) is confident of staving off disaster by parading such gems as a Frederic Bazille's Tireuse de Cartes (1869). Work by Bazille last appeared at auction in 1988. He died aged 29 in the Franco- Prussian war, having painted only 65 pictures. Estimate: pounds 800,000- pounds 1.2m. Sotheby's Monet is one of the famous poplars series, superior to any Monet appearing in New York last month, but comparably estimated at pounds 200,000- pounds 300,000. An irresistible Manet of the famous bar at the Folies Bergere is the week's top lot at pounds 3m. Christie's selection, also strong on fresh-to-market works from private owners, Monday (7pm), includes a key Miro est pounds 1.2m- pounds 1.6m and a dull Monet at pounds 1.5m- pounds 2m.

Part two of the Impressionist and modern sales, with estimates as low as pounds 10,000: Christie's, Tuesday (10.30am), Sotheby's, Wednesday (10.30am). Christie's South Kensington, estimates from low hundreds, Monday (2pm).

Prints: Sotheby's, Tuesday (10am) has a Picasso etching La Minotauromachie (1935) one of 27, at pounds 500,000- pounds 700,000. Also Christie's: Thursday and Friday (both 10.30am), Phillips, Monday (2pm). Contemporary art at Sotheby's: part one, Wednesday (7pm), part two Thursday (10.30am).

Sotheby's has printed books Monday and Tuesday (10.30am daily) including modern illustrated books. Christie's has books, manuscripts, letters and music, Wednesday (11am).

Once-in-a-lifetime sale at Christie's South Kensington of the archive of Britains, makers of toy soldiers. Estimates start in the hundreds: expect a fight, Monday (2pm). Biggest-ever cache of 26 Beatrix Potter picture-letters and watercolours, sent to her governess's children: from pounds 1,000 each, Tuesday (11am). Woolley & Wallis, Castle Street, Salisbury (0722 411422).

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