In 1984 the 11th Duke of Chatsworth in order to pay some taxes (the family has always been plagued by death duties like many old English aristocratic families), put once more part of the House collection on auction. It was this time the 71 Old Master drawings collection, the most fabulous private collection of Old Masters, which has been formed by the 2rd Duke of Devonshire (1672-1729). The Duke's Trustees had tried to secure a deal with the Treasury and the Minister of the Arts that the nation could like a group of drawings from the collection for £5.5 million net.
The Brisith Museum flatly denied to pay such a price and offered... £ 5,25 million. On £250,ooo the Duke's offer to the nation foundered. Then the Trustees had no other recourse than an auction sale ; it was given to Christie's. Thirty-nine artists were represented at the sale and only three failed to achieve a new record price for the artist. The total of the sale was the incredible amount of £ 21.1 million and it took only two hours to the auctioneer to sell the whole of the 71 lots. For the British Museum it was an humiliation and its refutal to buy for 5,5 million an experience it was not about to forget.
Among the best sales were from above to below :
1)A Portrait of a Scholar or Cleric by Holbein sold to the Getty Museum in Malibu for $ 2 millions.
2) A Portrait of Hendrick van Balen by van Dyck sold to the same Getty for $783,675.
3) Three Groups of Apostles by Rubens sold for $ 812,700 still to the Getty Museum.
4) A man Threshing Beside a Waggon by Rubens for £ 765,000 ($1 million).
5) St Paul rending his garments by Raphael bought by the Getty for £ 1.5 million ($2 million).
6) Saints Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and Zeno by Raphael for £ 1.1 million ($1.5 million) bought by the P.Getty Museum .
7) Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari with drawings by Filippino Lippi bought by the NYC collector Ian Woodner for £ 3.2 million ($4.3 million).
8) A Man Head and Hand by Raphael (1483-1520) bought for £3.5 million ($4.7 million) by Mrs Seward Johnson, widow of the founder of the Johnson & Johnson Cy.