03 December 2014

Property of a Southern Lady

The recent auction of Mrs. Paul Mellon's personal property saw unprecedented publicity, and at auction, unprecedented realized prices. Not so in most auctions where a seller's possessions are heaped into an auction pile with those of others, along with museum deacquisitions-all seeking purchase.

I follow many of the regional auctions from their catalogs, most of which can now be seen online. No travel, or purchase necessary. It certainly has its advantages. So easy to be caught up in bidding, just to banish the angst of a lost bid, or the boredom that  arises from the endless waiting til that particularly special piece comes along. Alas, there's always the other piece that ends up in your possession you're bewildered by.
How did I ? ( see any of the above for the answer)

In practice, perusing an auction catalog tells us where the auction is-and who we are. In the upcoming Charlton Hall Auction we know just where we are most of the time. An occasional-" Landscape of Monterrey" intrudes, but for the most part we are in the South. Dark pieces of mahogany parade past us, pine tables with the just perfect lean-prerequisite with rings and watermarks, and art in the vernacular abounds. The offerings of Charlton Hall are always steeped in the rich traditions of the South.

Some of the pieces in the  December 12 and 13th captured my imagination.

Hans Holbein the Younger (manner of) (German/British, 1497-1543)
oil on canvas, framed, unsigned
Frame bearing caption on top: BEHEADED Feby 12 1554; on bottom: LADY JANE GREY

I can just imagine this painting of the young fated Lady Jane Grey in a great room. 
I see her holding court over a room with dark polished floors and bright white starched slipcovers. Lady Jane is all else needed. 
Imagine the surprise of a young child (with jelly toast) sitting in a chair just learning to read, gaping up at Lady Jane and asking- "What does BEHEADED mean Mommie?" (see text in BOLD above) 

But aesthetically speaking, the Lady Jane Grey conjures up just such a room, with Yes,furniture of mahogany & pine, and lots of bright light for the tragic Jane.

 Continental three-panel screen early 19th century, 
pictorial wallpaper panels mounted on arched green painted wood frames

One could easily plan an entire room around this screen with its cerulean and pompadour pink pastoral scenes. 
I love the wide marble wainscoting. 
A room of pinks & blues? 
I think not.
Rather I see a small sitting room in shades of gray and charcoal that play to the screens real strengths-that marble wainscoting. The screen rests over a charcoal linen sofa with white appliques picked out in all over trimmings of white-cushions, backs, arms & skirt. Startling emerald green features somewhere in the room along with a bizarre toile-maybe of the Timorous Beasties ilk.

Easily convincing, Margaret Fothergill (possibly), hangs over a tight little mantle and fireplace flanked by bookcases.

Lot 417
Sir Godfrey Kneller (follower of) (British, 1646-1723)
oil on canvas, framed, uns

 If Margaret (possibly) slips through your fingers there's still Lot 422 as consolation-
British school, 18th century PORTRAIT OF A LADY IN GOLD DRESS
oil on canvas, framed, unsigned

There's always a surprise amidst these auctions. Someone who loved the Aesthetic Movement, or else wise inherited a "monster" from someone who loved the Aesthetic Movement. 
I just happen to love the Aesthetic Movement.
 Aesthetic Movement bird's-eye maple and faux bamboo bedstead late 19th century

It puts me in mind of one of my favorite bedroom decorations Thomas Jayne created for Town and Country magazine. The room is just one of the many Jayne decorated in a newly built house at Ford Plantation in Savannah years ago. In fact the house's decorations are still picture perfect and many of the antique pieces Jayne used could easily be picked right out of the current Charlton Hall auction catalog.

 see the entire house at Thomas Jayne's website here

As is typical with clients, (always shopping outside of your designer's trusted eye), I'm sure Mr. Jayne will not scold if I were to purchase Lot 51

A Collection of studies and sketches by
Conrad Wise Chapman (South Carolina/Virginia/Mexico/Italy, 1842-1910)
I'd frame these beautiful studies and hang them in around the mirror on the dressing table.

 Lastly, there is this:  

 Diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire Tutti-Fruitti bracelet 
95.0ctw leaf- carved rubies, blue sapphires and emeralds, and 8.5ctw round diamonds in articulated design with enameled accents, L8" 

Shades of Daisy Fellowes?  Mrs. Cole Porter? Cartier? There's no mention of these ladies, or of Cartier, but the bracelet surely fits them.

Daisy Fellowes photographed by Cecil Beaton wearing her Cartier Tutti-Fruitti necklace

I've perused other auction sites and it seems the signature of Cartier can be worn off  bracelets over time-say circa 1925? Cartier had exhibited the first of their famous Tutti-Fruitti jewels at the 1925 Paris Exhibition. Heavy on the era's allure of India, the ruby, sapphire and emerald stones were cut and engraved in naturalistic leaf, flower and berry shapes echoing the influences of Mughal jewelry. This Lot I'd have to see and hold, maybe strap it on the wrist, and imagine myself wandering through that great room, or that petit sitting room, or the bedroom with that kooky Aesthetic bed I adore. 

Somehow amidst all the chaos of an auction there often emerges a quiescent consciousness of putting it all together- room by room, and making it fit-just like that Tutti-Fruitti bracelet. 

 Charlton Hall's Auction takes place in Columbia South Carolina, December 12th & 13th Here
Links to all these auction Lots are in BOLD typeface.

Read more about Cartier's Tutti-Fruitti history Here


  1. would love all of these..Lady Jane Grey is such a tragic story

  2. Wonderful post, full of evocative images and treasures. I love the way you have auction items at the centre, and then bring them to life by giving them a story and place. Would love that panting of Lady Jane.

  3. Gaye I would certainly be happy with any of these special auction finds. jewels and works of art!

    The Arts by Karena

  4. I have seven grandchildren! I would remove the caption about the "beheading" ; put in a drawer, and no one would see it until I "went up"; and then the grandchildren could sell the thing....or keep it if they liked it!

    Children should not be exposed to anything about "beheading " until they are at least 40..and really.......why then? That beautiful lady with that lovely ruff around her neck.. I am rethinking....no. Get rid of the caption. And no one will ever find anything out about it....unless they find this blog! Erase it all!

    Tee hee!!!

    Good grief! One doesn't have to keep every single

  5. I love that bed, too!! And The Aesthetic Movement and the tutti-frutti and the sketches. Sorry that I'll have to bid you up on these lots. xoxo

  6. Wow, what a feast for the eyes! I too adore the Jayne bedroom and am hoping that some caring individual ends up with possession of Lady Jane,



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