Hoard of medieval silver goes under the hammer

Old master paintings, including works by Titian and Rubens and stunning examples of silverware will form part of the biggest sale of the year so far when works from the Wernher Collection are auctioned in July by Christie's in London.

The centrepiece will be the silver, notably a 15th century figure of St Christopher and a Gothic reliquary depicting St Sebastian designed by Hans Holbein the Elder. Yesterday Harry Williams-Bulkeley, head of Christie's silver department, said: "We haven't had a sale of this quality since World War II. To find Gothic silver of this quality is very rare."

Julius Wernher, born in Darmstadt, Germany, made his fortune in diamond mining in South Africa. He settled in England and became an obsessive collector, filling his two grand homes, Bath House in London and Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, with art.

Christie's said half the sale proceeds would go on preserving and displaying remaining works in the Wernher collection. Talks are under way with English Heritage with a view to housing them in a building open to the public.

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