Chandelier bought for £250 in antique shop set to sell for millions

The Giacometti chandelier (pictured) was made in the 1940s  (Christie’s/Getty)
The Giacometti chandelier (pictured) was made in the 1940s (Christie’s/Getty)

A “rare and prestigious” chandelier picked up by an English painter for £250 in the 1960s could be sold for millions.

John Craxton suspected the unusual chandelier was the work of Alberto Giacometti when he saw it at an auction in London. Made in the late 1940s, it goes on sale at Christie’s in February.

Pieces by Giacometti, a revered Swiss sculptor, are among some of the most expensive to buy at auction.

Michelle McMullan, of Christie’s, said the piece had an estimated value of £1.5m – £2.5m.

The top price fetched for a Giacometti chancelier was £7,602,400 in 2018 for a bronze piece from 1949, she said.

Mr Caxton, who died in November 2009, spotted the chandelier in a shop on Marylebone Road, central London in the 1960s.

He suspected it had been commissioned by his late friend, the art collector Peter Watson, and hung it in his home in Hampstead, north London for five decades.

The chandelier once hung in the lobby of the Bloomsbury offices of Horizon magazine, the cultural journal, now defunct, which was set up by Mr Watson and Cyril Connolly in 1939 and went on to publish celebrated work by WH Auden, George Orwell, EM Forster and Dylan Thomas.

John Craxton died in November 2009 (PA)
John Craxton died in November 2009 (PA)

The authenticity of the chandelier was questioned in Britain in 2015 and the estate of John Craxton began a lengthy process to prove its was a legitimate work.

Aston Lark, a London insurance broker, was responsible for safely transporting the light to the Fondation Giacometti in Paris for verification in December 2021.

Julie Webb, private clients director for the broker, told The Observer: “It was a major security operation getting the chandelier to and from Paris but it was all worth the effort – the chandelier for Peter Watson is now regarded as being among the most significant Alberto Giacometti hanging sculptures ever made as it features a suspended ball, in common only with his famous surrealist sculpture La Boule suspendue.”

Alberto Giacometti at the Venice Biennale in 1962 (Paolo Monti)
Alberto Giacometti at the Venice Biennale in 1962 (Paolo Monti)

John Craxton’s biographer, Ian Collins, also a trustee of Craxton’s estate, said: “The chandelier for Peter Watson displays the different streams of creative thinking that occupied Giacometti during this productive period.

“It was hung in the Bloomsbury offices of Horizon in 1949 but the magazine closed the following year.

“It was removed from the building and placed in storage, although we don’t know how it found its way to Denton’s antiques shop in Marylebone Road.

“It is likely that, along with other artworks from the offices, Watson gave them to Cyril Connolly, but the details may always remain a mystery.”