Continental furniture was a major attraction at Christie’s King Street on April 12.
A late 17th-early 18th century north Italian walnut, rosewood and fruitwood marquetry commode made £14,000 (estimate £1500-2000). A late 18th century pair of South European walnut, kingwood cross-banded and fruitwood parquetry commodes made £11,000 (estimate £3000-5000) and two 23in (58cm) tall, mid-19th century Italian marble models of the ruined temples of Vespasian and Castor and Pollux tripled expectations at £15,000.
Topping the Christie’s selection was a 117-piece etched gilt-glass St Louis Thistle pattern part table service. Produced by the venerable Compagnie des Cristalleries de Saint Louis in Lorraine in the 1920s, the champagne, wine and water glasses, which took £28,000 against a £6000- 10,000 estimate was a lot redolent of life at Faringdon House when owned by composer, writer, painter and flamboyantly and defiantly gay Lord Berners (1853-1950).
His guests included the likes of Evelyn Waugh, Siegfried Sassoon, John Betjeman, Salvador DalÍ, HG Wells, Gertrude Stein and the Mitford Sisters.
It was the famous sisters who were linked to two of the stand-out lots at Kidson-Trigg in Highworth on April 17. One of the lots comprised ‘a quantity of books, photographs, postcards, maps and ephemera etc’ relating to Faringdon House, including postcards from Diana (Mitford) Mosley, written from Holloway Prison, 1943. As the whole-heartedly Fascist wife of British National Socialist leader Oswald Mosley, she was interned there during the war.
“All the ephemera were estimated very low,” said auctioneer Pippa Kidson-Trigg. “Two ladies fought over them in the room – both I believe had had some sort of connection with the house or family or people of the day when Lord Berners was there – so a huge price over estimate.”
No exaggeration: the bundle was pitched at £40-60 and sold at £3800.
The Mitford connection fuelled bidding on a lot which, like for like, exceeded a similar lot at Christie’s.
In London, a late 18th century ‘and later’ four-post bed with boxwood strung front posts and later painted canopy, took a mid-estimate £1500.
At the Highworth sale, a George III mahogany four-poster with fluted and reeded baluster columns came from the Red Bedroom, given to favoured guests at Faringdon House.
In her book The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me, Nancy Mitford wrote of fire-watching duties in wartime London when “the place I longed to be in most intensely was the red bedroom at Faringdon, with its crackling fire, its Bessarabian carpet and above all its four-post bed.”
Estimated at £400-600, it sold at £2400.