John Schaeffer. Schaeffer is an Australian entrepreneur and art collector whose collection of 19th century European art, rumoured to number more than 500 works, is considered to be one of the best in the world. Until recently there were rumours that Schaeffer, one of the biggest buyers of Victorian paintings in past years, had withdrawn from the market. Schaeffer’s absence from the salerooms, combined with a minor sell-off of works from his collection, caused a panic that saw confidence in the market for Victorian paintings drop. The rumours were proven to be untrue when Schaeffer purchased a large painting by the late-Victorian symbolist Solomon Joseph Solomon titled ‘Birth of Eve’ at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2009. Schaeffer purchased the 10ft canvas for a record £713,250 – well above the artist’s previous auction record of £35,000.
The effect that the Schaeffer rumours had on the market for Victorian paintings is an example of another problem that the market for Victorian paintings needs to overcome. There are so few major collectors of Victorian paintings that the actions of just one of those collectors can have major repercussions for the whole market. In fact, you can count the collectors of Victorian paintings worth mentioning on one hand, with digits to spare – namely: Isabel Goldsmith, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and John Schaeffer.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications