Bunhill: Leeway for mix-up

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The Independent Online
RONALD LEE Fine Arts Ltd is not to be confused with RA Lee plc, let alone with the gentleman himself, a well-known furniture expert who often bids at auction (without fee) on behalf of the British Museum.

The BM was naturally interested in the two 13th-century panels in the illustration, since they are the only two remaining from Henry III's Painted Chamber in the medieval Palace of Westminster. Unfortunately, Lee found himself on the losing side against a representative of Ronald Lee Fine Arts Ltd, now a subsidiary of Asprey, where he was a consultant.

After a spirited battle a client of Asprey - or Ronald Lee Fine Arts, to be precise - bought them for pounds 132,000, well above the BM's limit of pounds 80,000. The result of the confusion has been a series of explanations, each more tedious than the last, claims (and denials) of punch-ups, the departure of Ronald Lee from Ronald Lee Fine Arts, and the danger that the panels, which are of undeniable historical importance, could be resold and leave the country.

(Photograph omitted)