Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Preview of the Sotheby's auction of Deborah Duchess of Devonshire

This is a post about the preview of the Sotheby's auction of Deborah Duchess of Devonshire.  I know there has been a lot of press and blogs about it but I haven't seen many pictures from the preview so thought I would share as some of my friends who live in other countries couldn't attend.

Don't worry those roses are real!

No, I didn't bid on any of the items as I like the Duchess well enough but I haven't been a fan of sorts until I realized we had some similar seating! ;)

My previous post was about the Georgian cane and ebonised pieces. 
The chairs that are similar to the ones I have were used as dining chairs.
I love the curve of the arm.

This was the most popular room and had many vignettes surrounding the dining table.

The items were nice but the Duchess must have had her fill of grandeur because the items in themselves weren't exceptional so I did wonder why these pieces were being sold.
But then again those roofs don't fix themselves.

 This chair in real life wasn't of the quality I was expecting and truth be told I preferred the quality and finish of mine but it still sold for over the estimate.

The only thing I was going to seriously bid on was this picture below.
It had a moderate estimate and it was a lovely image of chickens which is the animal totem of the Duchess dare I say.

But it went for nearly 30 times the estimate so glad I didn't bother.

This Sevres style Minton planter was lovely even in real life.

It ended up selling for £750.

The only regret I have is that I should have bid on the lot of screens although the very reason I didn't was that they were flimsy and not in the best condition.

It sold for the just above the lower estimate.

But the screen had a nice motif on it but there was a huge hole in the back and I was doubtful that the screen would last much longer without some sort of restoration.
Truth be told if I was a Mitford fan I would have bid but I wasn't particularly interested in having something of hers for the sake of it.

Lot 290 didn't sell I think because up close the screen had some sort of decoupage like pics crudely pasted on.

Plus these items were in the "spare room" of the preview.
Not only do you and I have that room where we put our "uncurated" items in but Sotheby's has one too!

This celadon lamp was in the room and you can get a glimpse on the lower left of the picture.

In itself it would have seen like a good buy to use without the fear or fashion.
However, this is why it is so important to see in person what you are bidding on.
It was noticeably damaged.

As long as the items were in good condition, things without the provenance of the Duchess would not have fetched the prices it did such as these plastic duck lamps that went for 5 times the estimate.

Nancy Mitford would have been happy that this painting sold for £15,000.

I actually appreciated it without knowing who painted it and it might be time for me to read one of her books finally!

No surprise that the portraits of each Mitford sister went above estimate.

I have a feeling that an American WASP would have bid on these leaf mould dishes.
It's a classic with some but so bang on trend for others.

This was some of her garden furniture.

Obligatory family silver - being sold even.

The posh English desk with family photos and a trinket.

Oddly these canine porcelain pieces didn't get sold in dog mad country.

The bedroom was recreated and shows the strength of much maligned brown furniture as it very much suits not only the original floral wallpaper of her bedroom but also this dark hue.

No surprises she read the Telegraph.

Even the breakfast trays were up for sale.

The bedhead went for £20,000!

The ebonised settee did rather well.

As I'm writing this I think the auction might still be in progress and I can't see the prices so I shall leave you with some pictures.

The furniture was constantly being tried out by viewers and luckily I got there early because many were pretending to have tea with the Duchess!
I mean they could have puffed up the cushions because they knew we were coming right? ;)

Your eyes are not lying to you - that is a Del Boy-esque bracelet that says "TEA POT ROW".

In England, it can be trying for foreigners to tell the difference between the very posh and very not.
I did joke about it in this post I did a few years ago.

There was also a small exhibition of some of her dresses that were not for sale and part of the permanent exhibition at Chatsworth.

There will also be an exhibition at Chatsworth about the Duchess and pictures of her by Cecil Beaton coming this year starting in a few weeks.

Now I'm waiting for a BBC miniseries about the Mitford Sisters so I can save some time on all the catch up reading!


  1. Many thanks, Naomi. Wonderful to have your eagle eye pics and impressions on Debo's auction preview. My favourite things, which of course wouldn't have been in auction, were those pots of climbing roses out front. Maybe Pierre Ronsard? Weren't they so romantic and beautiful!
    Very quirky collection. While the family would have taken back anything of real grandeur or beauty they wanted to keep, guess they had to include some good things to attract bids. From most of results you've posted looks as though roofs will do well. Would love to have been able to see the jewellery close up - and try on some of those adorable brooches and rings. Finally have my catalogue so can just enjoy looking at the pictures and wondering where all the lovely things have gone. You can be really happy that you already own similar and probably better chairs.
    Hope you'll one day find time to read at least one of Nancy's best books. After all they're not "War and Peace" and you can rip through them really quickly if you want - or do it more slowly and savour Nancy's wonderful sense of humour. Pammie

    1. I thought the roses were fake because they were so nice and a bit early but indeed I went and made sure they were real! It was a bit funny that although I know the Brits aren't known for any OCD like behaviour I would have chosen some nicer furniture from the vault so to speak but then again these things get more magnified when the objects are the star and one is trying to decipher and analyse a person from a collection of things. I will try one book this year but I am now considering I might go to Chatsworth to see the Cecil Beaton exhibition xx

  2. How much ch for the chicken cookies?! I really struggle with auctions because most of the time I don't have a clue as to what the value should be. Hunter did buy two couches and a coffee table at a Miami auction for maybe $150 for all three when right out of college. Makes you wonder what happened on those sofas.

    1. The chicken stuff did so well as she was the one that started the whole ballgown doing menial tasks thing. Yes the stories that sofa could tell!!!

  3. Looking at the on-line catalog of this sale, I thought the selection was kind of junky, especially considering the kinds of treasures Deborah was used to dealing with. The photo with the two children has got to show two of the most hideous portraits ever created, but I did like those Victorian hand-vases. I find it a little strange that a family would get rid of portraits of its own members, especially those in recent memory.

    1. Yep - truth is that some of the things were junky and would not have been out of place in a smaller lower level regional auction house had it not been for the provenance. But I do think the auction was very much to raise the profile of Chatsworth as the new chatelaine doesn't have quite the same pulling power or the power of recognition as Debo did so it must be to stay current.

  4. Thanks for sharing Naomi - this is very interesting and it is incredible how much some of the items sold for. Add in buyer's commission and it does seem that people were prepared to pay a huge premium to have a piece of hers. Fascinating. I'm off to Hampshire tomorrow for the annual spring sale of the supplier of crystal and glassware to the likes of William Yeoward and Nina Campbell - would be completely up your street! Best, Charlotte x

    1. And indeed it was interesting to see what didn't sell. Yes Charlotte that is right up my street but do please IG any interesting pieces! x

  5. Thank you for sharing your pictures of the preview, and your commentary too. I also had my eye on the Jonathan Sainsbury picture of the hens - needless to say I was outbid! I liked the Nancy Mitford painting too but knew there was no point in even bidding on that one. Nancy Mitford's books are great fun, do give them a go if you have a chance.

    1. Glad you liked it as I saw only press on the catalogue but not so much the rooms. Yes that picture was a total draw and knew it would go crazy and it was actually nice IRL too. I really liked the Nancy painting but will read a book this year but you know I am wondering if they are such a historical figure why there is no BBC series!

  6. How interesting! I've never been that interested in the Mitford world, probably because I know nothing about it. As I began the post, I kept thinking how New England her possessions looked. Was glad to then see that you agreed. But I love that gingham tablecloth. Maybe I'll chain my mother to her machine and get one of those done for Easter. I'll feed her well.
    I'm imagining FF's heart racing into a fury when she sees this post.

    1. Yes it's funny how New England can be more English than the English at times. Yes the cloth was nice but not for sale! But I do love a circular table as it gives the guests to breathe a little. That would be too easy for your mother's skills though - give her a proper challenge hehe. Yes the bee brooches would make FF lift her auction paddle if she were in town!

    I would have bought the screens with holes!!!!!!!!!!
    I thought about this all day yesterday............and NOW I feel I was THERE!
    BRAVA...many THANKS!

    1. If I had the room and an endless budget perhaps! I already have 3 screens that don't actually have a purpose :)

  8. Fabulous pottery! And I do love the caned back dining chairs. But some of those other items.....just pedestrian. Thanks for sharing - fun!!
    PS - I like the spare room :) I have a couple of those!!

    1. The lettuce bowls did exceptionally well! I liked the chairs but truth be told I like the quality of mine better which is crazy to say. The spare room is the mature Easter egg hunt right Loi?

  9. Love this! You have a gift for taking us with you on these interesting adventures. I think you would really enjoy Nancy Mitford's novels, I've read them all and they are good fast reads. Entertaining!
    I haven't read her non-fiction though, I have a copy of The Sun King but just can't get into it for some reason, maybe it's time to try again.
    Thanks Naomi XOX

    1. Thanks Dani but people have said I should use snapchat but I can't bear to remember another username. I def will have to order the books xx

  10. Ooh, it's so like peeping into someone's home through the window looking at the photos you posted! I see Debo didn't live with items that were extremely fancy. As one other poster said above, "very pedestrian" and I think that nailed it for me as well.
    I do have a funny comment about those lettuce/cabbage leaf bowls though. Here in the States we have TJ Maxx stores with a small housewares section and I recall about 15 years ago seeing knock off leaf bowls and I remember being horrified at how ugly they were! And now you have a pic of them at Debo's auction! Made me laugh out loud again! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Leaf bowls are such that I don't know if a knock off could be considered a knock off even. But Tory burch has revived it for the masses so I think it was part of the reason why the lot had a buzz. Glad you enjoyed the pics Susan!

  11. Love the pictures, and the way they've set it all up like sets from her house. But really, I agree with you that excepting a few pieces it was really just very similar to a normal house clearance sale with average quality decorative bits and pieces.
    Am shocked you ignored the Elvis memorabilia to photograph though! Bet the family were very happy to be rid of it…! xx

    1. The rooms work well when they do recreations. The auction was just a nice buzz in the city and it brings people out of their homes and you see people you'd normally not see and I love the overheard conversations. But the duchess brought people to chatsworth and I think they needed some publicity to keep the place current. They did one of those BBC three part series on the estate but the duchess is a hard act to follow. But I might go up for the Cecil Beaton exhibit. Coming? Xx

  12. What fabulous coverage! Thank you for the detailed post. I love how auctions connect us to interesting characters and I likely would have bought those ducks had I had the chance!


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