This March Sotheby’s in London is auctioning the collection of furniture, objects, artworks and jewellery owned by Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire. Deborah (1920-2014) was the last of the Mitford sisters. The ‘Mitford Sisters’ were six sisters renowned for their social celebrity status and contentious political alignments.
Deborah was somewhat less politically controversial than some of her sisters and was a great patron of the arts. Her collection is a portrait of her interests and friends, most of whom were writers and artists and there are some charming pieces on sale. We’ve chosen a selection of our favourite items …
This portrait of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire was painted by Duncan Grant. We loved the colour palette and post-impressionistic style. Grant was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and was influenced by both the work of French post-impressionists and his fellow Bloomsbury painter Roger Fry. Grant was co-director of the Omega Workshop with Vanessa Bell whom he shared both a personal and creative relationship with. We are often drawn to the colour tones of the Bloomsbury Group and even drew inspiration from their work for our previous project in Ireland - which you can read more about by clicking here.
We also liked these three pairs of George III armchairs (c. 1790). Each have a moulded square back with in swept arms and square tapering legs, and are all in pastel painted beech and cane. They are elegant in their simplicity of design and now have a more rustic feel with their antique paintwork. They were most likely designed by James Wyatt.
Estimate: £1,200-1,800 (per pair)
We were struck by this drypoint portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough by Paul-César Helleu whose work we greatly admire. Helleu is known for his drawings of beautiful society women of the Belle Époque era. He has a real sensitivity of style in both his drawings and engravings. The balance between the subject’s detailed face and more impressionistic clothing create a beautiful harmony.
This next piece, a Regency black painted and cane settee was rather striking. Made after a design by Gallows the black frame has ebonised and gilt-line painted decoration. The back features three cane lunettes and segments painted with cherubs. There is a beautiful balance between the rich detail and geometric design which results in a an elegant piece of furniture which could be a real centrepiece in a sitting room.