Born in Perth in 1730, it was on Friday 5th December 1766, at rooms in London’s Pall Mall and formerly occupied by Richard Dalton, an Antiquary, Librarian and Keeper of Drawings, Medals etc for King George III, that auctioneer James Christie held his first sale. The company retains a copy of the earliest auction catalogue to this day. However, there are other sources noting that James Christie rented auction rooms from 1762, and newspaper advertisements of Christie’s sales dating from 1759 have also been traced. These are all quite possible but – to use a modern terms – may well have been a part of the big opening.
He went on to found Christie’s auctioneers there with the Great Rooms dealing with some of the most important sales of the late-eighteenth century. Described as being of a tall and dignified appearance, remarkable for eloquence and professional enthusiasm, he was intimate with Garrick, Reynolds, and Gainsborough, and other men of note. On these premises the exhibitions of the Royal Academy of Arts were held until 1779. James later moved next door to Gainsborough who lived in the western wing of Schomburg House.
James was twice married: four sons were born in his first marriage with the eldest, James Christie [1773-1831] succeeding him in the sale-rooms. Samuel Hunter Christie was his son by the second marriage.
James died at his house in Pall Mall on Tuesday 8th November 1803, aged 73, and was buried at St. James’s burial-ground in the Hampstead Road.
This year, 2016, marks Christie’s 250th anniversary and the company now has a global presence in 46 countries, with salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Mumbai.