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Artworks by Rembrandt and Raphael sell for £50m

A record-breaking auction in London saw two works of art, a Rembrandt and a Raphael, sell for almost £50m.

The drawing by Raphael, Head of a Muse, sold for £29.2m, a world record price for any work on paper to go under the hammer, Christie's said.

It was also a world record price for the artist.

The Rembrandt painting, entitled Portrait of a Man, Half-Length, With His Arms Akimbo, fetched £20.2m, a record price for the artist at auction.

Christie's Old Masters and 19th-century art sale on Tuesday night fetched a total of £68,380,250 from 28 lots sold.

The auction house said it was the highest total for an auction of Old Masters.

'Glimpse into genius'

Raphael's Head of a Muse was drawn as a study for a figure in Parnassus, one of the series of four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican which was commissioned by Pope Julius II and which was executed between 1508 and 1511.

The drawing, which was offered at public auction for the first time in more than 150 years, had been expected to sell for £12m to £16m.

It was bought by an anonymous client on the telephone.

The previous record price for a work on paper was Danseuse au repos, a pastel by Edgar Degas, which sold in New York in November last year for US dollars 37,042,500.

Rembrandt's Portrait of a Man, Half-Length With his Arms Akimbo (detail)
Rembrandt's painting had not been seen in public for 40 years

Benjamin Peronnet, from Christie's, said: "Raphael is universally recognised as one of the greatest artists in history, and we are extremely excited to have sold a beautiful drawing by his hand which played a major part in the execution of one of the masterpieces of European art.

"This truly exceptional drawing offers us a glimpse into the working mind of a genius.

"The drawing is not only a work of genius in its own right but is also related to one of the artist's great frescoes in the Vatican and has come down to us in remarkable condition."

Rembrandt's painting went under the hammer for the first time since 1930, when it sold for £18,500 - a noteworthy sum at the time.

Before the pre-sale exhibition the late portrait had not been publicly displayed for 40 years.

It was also bought by an anonymous client bidding by telephone.

The previous world record price for a work by Rembrandt sold at auction was £19.8m.

Portrait of a Lady Aged 62 was sold at Christie's in London in December 2000.

Portrait of a Man, Half-length, With His Arms Akimbo, was painted in 1658 during one of Rembrandt's most artistically inventive periods.

It depicts an unknown sitter facing the artist with a defiant pose and hands on hips.


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Title The pre-Budget report 'to include 50% bank bonus tax'
Summary A tax on bankers' bonuses is expected to form the centrepiece of Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report - the last before the general election.

Banks may face a one-off 50% levy on bonuses above a level which could be as low as £10,000, the BBC's business editor Robert Peston understands.

It is intended to deter big bonuses rather than raise revenue, he said.

The Tories accused Labour of "chasing headlines" by "bashing the bankers" to divert attention from the economy.

Economists expect Mr Darling to revise upwards his forecast for borrowing this year from the £175bn predicted in April's Budget.

That would make it even more difficult for him to fulfil his pledge to halve the budget deficit - the gap between the amount of money the government gets from things like tax and the amount it spends - by 2013.

The Conservatives say borrowing levels need to be reduced much more quickly, as the spiralling deficit is sapping economic confidence.

Shadow business secretary Ken Clarke said Mr Darling's speech would contain "a fair amount of political candy floss", such as the tax on bankers' bonuses, to divert attention from the state of the economy.

"What he should do is start talking seriously about freezing budgets of non-essential public spending, deciding where to make the savings so that we don't have to keep printing the money we are at the moment, so we can borrow it from people without interest rates going up," he told the BBC News Channel.

Without such measures there would only be "flickering" recovery next year said Mr Clarke, rather than the firm return to growth likely to be predicted by Mr Darling in his speech.

The chancellor is expected to say the economy will shrink 4.75% this year - a more severe contraction than the 3.5% drop predicted in April - but stand by forecasts for growth in 2010 of between 1% and 1.5%.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson denied the government just wanted to "teach the banks a lesson" with its new one-off bonus tax.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We want the banks to build up the capital on their balance sheets, we want them to become profitable again, we want them to function normally because the rest of the economy depends on that.

"But, equally, they do have to understand that people will be very disconcerted, and disapproving, to see a return to the excesses, the bonus culture that we have seen in the past."

Youth unemployment

Explaining how the bank bonus tax would work, Robert Peston said: "The chancellor will say that if banks pay bonuses to individual bankers over a specified fairly low level - perhaps £10,000 - that will trigger a special one-year-only tax for those banks.

"The tax payable will be calculated by adding together all those big bonuses and then levying a charge on the aggregated sum of those big bonuses.

"The tax rate for the bank on that pool of bonuses would be more than 50%."

He said the effect of the new tax, which is expected to apply to all banks operating in the UK including branches of foreign banks, would be to make it "very expensive" for banks to pay bonuses.

Many banks intend to pay out millions of pounds in bonuses despite it being just a year since the huge taxpayer-funded bail-out of the banking system.

Some have warned of bankers moving abroad to dodge the tax but Mr Darling has said he would not be "held to ransom" by the banks.

Mr Darling is not expected to set out detailed spending plans for the years after 2010-11 but he may single out areas in England, such as schools, hospitals and police to be "ring-fenced" from future cuts as the battlelines are drawn for next year's general election.

A number of new green initiatives are expected in the report, with tax rebates for electric cars and wind turbines and possible help with the cost of replacing old household boilers.

Support for youth unemployment and environmental measures are also likely. There is also speculation about possible increases in National Insurance.

The chancellor's statement at 1230 GMT will set the tone for the economic debate in the run-up to the election - which must be held by next June.

The Lib Dems argue neither of the main parties are being honest about the spending challenges facing the next government and the extent of cuts that will be needed.

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