A beginner’s guide – Tefaf Maastricht 25th Anniversary Focus

The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf) brings together a huge array of works, from classical antiquities to contemporary art, with everything from jewellery to armour and antique wallpaper in between. The Art Newspaper spoke to scholars, dealers and auction experts – as well as members of each vetting committee – to produce a brief, introductory guide to some of the key objects and fields you will find under Tefaf’s roof.



– The Bible of Aulne Abbey (right), northem or northeastern France or the County of Hainaut, 1240-50 (Dr Jörn Günther Rare Books AG, €4m)

– Rudimentum Novitiorum, 1475 (Daniel Crouch Rare Books, €900,000)


While a manuscript’s value generally increases over time one often forgets that these were precious pieces from the very start, says the medieval books dealer Jörn Günther. The gold leaf and lapis lazuli used commanded exorbitant prices in the Middle Ages.

A manuscript’s condition is a determining factor. Aside from heat and sunlight, the greatest risk to manuscripts is humidity, “not book worms, as some might think”, says Kay Sutton, the director of Christie’s medieval and renaissance manuscripts department. Bindings can be over-trimmed and touch the borders, she adds.

Sutton identifies the strongest collecting areas as the Gothic manuscripts of the 13th century, Parisian manuscripts from the duc de Berry period at the turn of the 15th century and Flemish manuscripts, particularly from the late 15th century. For those looking to enter the market, single leaves, which attract cross-over collectors, can be less daunting.

The perfect condition of the Rothschild Prayerbook helped the Flemish Book of Hours set the auction record for an illuminated manuscript, fetching £8.5m (with buyer’s premium) at Christie’s, London, in 1999. However, the private sale last year of the St Cuthbert Gospel for £9m to the British Library in London shows that records are also made outside auctions.


– Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination 1200-1350 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles (until 13 May)