Issue 35, Summer 2013

Editor's letter

For auctioneers, there comes the moment when something comes in that stops their heart. This happened to everyone in the car department when the Mercedes-Benz W196 – aka the world's most famous racing car – was consigned to Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale. This marvelous machine is 'the Fangio car', the one in which Juan Manuel Fangio, the greatest driver ever, won his second world championship. When it was unveiled at Bonhams New Bond Street one rainy Monday night, grown men displayed emotions they didn't know they had. On pages 30-35 (we gave it an extra spread), Richard Williams and Doug Nye describe what made Fangio and this Mercedes so special. It's a work of art.The Russian department also has a treasure that sums up an era: a cigarette case made by Carl Fabergé that the Tsarina, Alexandra, gave to Nicholas II on the occasion of the birth of their second daughter, Tatyana. Decorated with the double-headed eagle, the case is a poignant reminder of the Romanov dynasty. On page 20, Vanora Bennett writes about the family and their life behind the curtain of the court.Gerald, 7th Duke of Wellington was also an avid collector of objets de vertu. One of the highlights of June's Silver Sale is a collection of decorative boxes that he assembled over his lifetime and which show his exquisite taste. Hugo Vickers charts the life of this diplomat-cum-architect who unexpectedly inherited two major houses and who built the last major folly in England. In this issue, Wellington is just one amongst a cast of extraordinary characters: a mystic who designed the costumes for The Rite of Spring, a self-taught artist who made a fortune, and a man who decided to buy a neo-classical mansion having spied it from a boat.

Enjoy the issue.

Lucinda Bredin

  1. An important fancy deep-blue diamond 'Trombino' ring,

    Page 14

    Inside Bonhams: A cut above

    Jean Ghika, Head of Jewelry, Europe, is the Bonhams rock star, says Lucinda Bredin

    Tension was rising in the room an hour before the sale. A huge blue diamond ring was the last lot on offer in April's Fine Jewelry sale at Bonhams. During the past ten years, fewer than 30 blue diamonds of more than five carats have ...

  2. Page 16

    Treasure house

    Trelissick in Cornwall is filled with family memories, wonderful objects and a historic collection of Spode. Lucinda Bredin meets Will Copeland, whose family has lived in the house for four generations

    While he was sailing his yacht on the River Fal in spring 1913, Leonard Cunliffe caught sight of a glorious neo-classical mansion set on a hill surrounded by parkland ...

  3. An important Imperial jewelled silver-gilt and enamel cigarette caseFabergé, workmaster August Holmström, c. 1897, scratched inventory number 56102

    Page 20

    Tsar quality

    The last Russian Empress ordered an ornate cigarette case from her favorite jeweler as a present for her husband. Vanora Bennett traces the connection between the House of Fabergé and the doomed dynasty

    On an April day in 1897, as the melting ice of the Neva beside St Petersburg's Winter Palace cracked and slid downriver to the Gulf of ...

  4. Page 24

    "Drawing is another word for thinking"

    Constable made hundreds of on-the-spot sketches throughout his career. Timothy Wilcox looks at the way drawing informed his life and art

    Constable famously wrote that "painting is another word for feeling". He might equally have said, "drawing is another word for thinking", for it is through his drawings -- hundreds of them, mostly made in the pocket sketchbooks that he always ...

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    Page 28

    Fruit and nutcase

    Salvador Dalí loved to shock, but his prints based on botanical illustrations show the whimsical side of his imagination, says Ian Irvine

    Salvador Dalí venerated Velázquez and even toyed with the idea that he might be his reincarnation. But while he undoubtedly belongs in that great tradition of Western painting, as the last of the old masters, he was also ...

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    Page 30

    Fangio, Fangio!

    The world's greatest-ever racing driver, the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio seemed invincible. Richard Williams charts his course to the top step on the podium

    It is hard to imagine a modern racing driver being kidnapped at gunpoint by a revolutionary group looking for publicity. But that's what happened, just over half a century ago, to Juan Manuel Fangio ...

  7. Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich (Russian, 1874-1947) 'Madonna Laboris'

    Page 36

    Out of this world

    Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich always claimed The Rite of Spring, – the ballet that caused a riot at its premiere by the Ballets Russes a century ago – was his idea. (Its composer Igor Stravinsky begged to differ.) But Roerich certainly had a hand: he wrote the libretto, and designed the original sets and costumes, which, with their pagan head-dresses, shapeless shifts, cross-gartered ...

  8. Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, James Bradburne

    Page 40

    Platform: Renaissance man

    James Bradburne, the director of Palazzo Strozzi, tells Lucinda Bredin why when working in Florence, you need a Machiavellian touch

    This is a city of oppositions," says James Bradburne, the Director General of the Strozzi Foundation, who is giving a vivid description of the 'challenges' of working in a city in which everyone is probably descended from Machiavelli. He leans ...

  9. Fine Silver and Gold Boxes

    Page 44

    Outside the box

    The 7th Duke of Wellington (1885-1972) did not expect to inherit the title. He was, after all, a younger son of the 4th Duke. But when the 6th Duke (his nephew, 'Morny') died at the Salerno landings in 1943, Lord Gerald Wellesley, as he had been known, took the title and the ducal homes: No. 1, London (Apsley House) and ...

  10. John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893) Glasgow docks

    Page 48

    Northern soul

    Self-taught and from Yorkshire, Atkinson Grimshaw became an artist the hard way. Jane Sellars looks at his brilliant career and sometimes tragic life

    The woman with the umbrella hesitates on the corner of the rain-swept street, her umbrella lifted in the act of opening; she is in Glasgow, by the Clyde, with the ships' masts towering above her into the ...

  11. Important Australian Art from the Collection of Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy

    Page 52

    New world order

    In 1963, Fred Williams's You Yangs Landscape 1 was greeted with incomprehension. Fifty years on, John McDonald discovers the artist constructed an entirely new vision of the world

    Upon returning to Australia in 1957, Fred Williams astounded his friends by declaring: "I'm going to paint the gum tree." After five years in England, applying himself to a stale ...

  12. Page 56

    Travel: Famous Belgians

    Ghent in East Flanders is known for its medieval center. Yet Jan Dalley discovers contemporary art among the history

    "Now you can't argue with that – for a castle," said my companion, as we stood in front of Ghent's 12th century Castle of the Counts. It has turrets, a portcullis and part of a moat, and it's so ...

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    Page 59

    Wine: Only collect

    Some people enjoy collecting empty bottles, others have a passion for wine labels. These are the lucky ones. For most wine collectors the agonizing question hangs over every bottle in the cellar: to drink or not to drink? For unlike almost any other collectable item except maybe fireworks, the enjoyment of a bottle of wine leads to its destruction. I ...

  14. Page 72

    My favorite room: Christopher Le Brun

    Christopher Le Brun, the President of the Royal Academy, is entranced by the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini

    I first visited the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini when I was still a student. I had been reading Adrian Stokes's books The Quattro Cento, so I knew something of the history of the place, but what I didn't know was how ...