Faringdon Auction Includes Waugh Portrait

Christie’s has announced a sale later this month that will include several items from the interior of Faringdon House, the former residence of Waugh’s friend Lord Berners. Among the items are a number of paintings and drawings by Lord Berners himself. These include portraits of Diana Cooper, Diana Guinness (later Mosley) and Daphne Weymouth (later Fielding), all close friends of Waugh, as well as four portraits of Robert Heber-Percy, who was not so close, and some landscapes. This sale is probably related to the efforts of Sofka Zinovieff to sell the property about which she recently wrote a book: The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me. The property was left by Lord Berners to Robert Heber-Percy who in turn left it to Zinovieff, his grand daughter. See previous post.

There is also a drawing said to be of Evelyn Waugh as a child. This is attributed to “English School”. Here is Christie’s description of that item:

Portrait of Evelyn Waugh as a child, wearing a pale blue coat
inscribed ‘Unfinished Rendering of/Evelyn Waugh at a/youthful age/T.C./ T. Chesell (upper left and right corners); inscribed on the reverse; pencil, watercolour, bodycolour and chalk on card.

This is Lot 19 and a copy of both the front and reverse sides of the portrait are provided. The handwritten message dated 1967 on the reverse side of the portrait attributes it to Frederick Etchells (1886-1973), a fairly well-known artist-architect who contributed to the Omega Group, was a member of the Vorticist movement, designed several well-known buildings and has works in Tate Gallery collections. It also asserts that the “inscription” (meaning that on the front) is in Etchell’s handwriting. “T. Chesell” could perhaps be a code for Etchells. Apparently, Christie’s chose not to accept this reverse-side attribution. It is not obvious, however, why the inscription on the front (including the identification of the subject of the portrait) is entitled to any greater credibility than that on the reverse (where the portrait’s subject is not discussed). The portrait does not resemble any photos of Waugh as a child (or adult for that matter). This item is listed between two other items, both of which have stated associations with Lord Berners, but whether this one has such an association is not indicated. Berners died in 1950, well before the date of the reverse side message. But this item might have been acquired by Robert Heber-Percy, who died in 1987. Might he have been the author of the reverse-side attribution? Estimated price is £600-1000.

We have today (13 August 2018) received a comment from the buyer of the portrait described above. This is Peter Ellis, bookseller, who has researched several of the points noted above relating to the attribution and subject matter of the portrait. He has kindly drafted these in the form of a comment which we have posted separately at this link.

UPDATE (5 April 2018): Christie’s has announced a late opening next Monday (9 April) that will focus on the consignments from Faringdon House discussed above. This will feature:

A talk from Dr Sofka Zinovieff, Robert Heber-Percy’s granddaughter, will explore this fascinating tale further, with musical interludes inspired by the period sung by Opera Prelude. Alongside this, artist Luke Edward Hall and creative consultancy Campbell-Rey will together be designing a room using furniture from the sale.

Christie’s London showrooms are located at 8 King St, St James’s, London SW1. The late opening will extend from 6-830pm. Details available here.

UPDATE 2 (6 April 2018): A story about the Faringdon auction also has appeared in the Daily Telegraph, complete with color photographs. This is by Henerietta Thompson datelined today in the Luxury/Design section. After mentioning the house’s history and Zinovieff’s book, the article offers this summary of the contents that are on offer:

The Interiors Sale at Christie’s stands out not only for its accessibility – with some lots starting as low as £300 it attracts a younger collector because of the nature of the material – but also for the stories behind the objects presented. Many of the objects that make up the sale are rare and of exceptional value, but – and especially in this case – the sense of fun and the surrounding narrative are what makes them more appealing still. It is the enormous sense of hospitality and fun that imbues the Faringdon estate that Christie’s most wants to celebrate in this season’s sale, says Cecilia Harvey, Interiors Specialist at the auction house.

UPDATE 3 (14 April 2018): According to Christie’s auction report, Lot 19 (the Portrait of Evelyn Waugh) sold for £1,250.

UPDATE 4 (13 August 2018): As noted in the text, we have posted a comment from the buyer of the Waugh portrait mentioned above. It is available at this link.


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