Selected Items From Lady Hamlyn's Outstanding Collection of Early Vernacular Furniture and Textiles at Bonhams

London – The philanthropist and designer, Lady Hamlyn, has spent a lifetime accumulating beautiful objects for her homes. She has always been fascinated by the past and in her own words "one of the great excitements has always been in the discovery of exceptional and historic works, and the creative process of arranging and displaying them at home." Now a selection of these historic pieces is to be offered at the sale of Early Vernacular Furniture and Textiles from The Collection of Lady Hamlyn at Bonhams on Tuesday 21 September. It includes an exceptional 16th century southern Netherlandish mythological and allegorical tapestry, which has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

The tapestry, which once hung in the vast hallway at Edgeworth Manor in Gloucestershire, came from the celebrated de Rothschild collection and can be dated to between 1510-1520. It depicts episodes from the mythological life of Aeneas.

This sale represents a lifetime's collection by Lady Hamlyn, whose passion for rare and unique vernacular furniture and textiles spans over 1,200 years. Each piece represents a tangible link to history from Gothic textiles and Renaissance sculpture to 17th century furniture made during the reign of Charles II. Lady Hamlyn pioneered the use of antique textiles to upholster furniture, a look now embraced by top decorators and interior designers on both sides of the Atlantic.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important collection of rare and early textiles to come onto the market with many of the items never been seen at auction before.

Alongside the collection of decorative arts, also included in the sale is the Hamlyn's Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II (estimate £7,000-10,000) as well as some of her more unusual possessions, such as Elton John's diamante encrusted bicycle (estimate £4,000-6,000).

Other highlights include:

• A vibrant armorial south Netherlandish tapestry from the second quarter of the 16th century. All the family connections that have been identified as linked to the present lot relate to the German State of Prussia. The first and fourth quarters that are blazoned as: or (gold), an eagle displayed sable (black), beaked and legged gules (red) appear to relate to descendants of the ruling family of Brandenburg which later became Prussia. Estimate: £50,000-70,000.

• A fine pair of 18th century north Italian terracotta lions. They are similar in style to the famous Medici lions, purchased by Ferdinando I de' Medici in 1576 most noticeably around the faces and the manes. Estimate: £20,000-30,000.

• A mid-18th century pair of fine Venetian giltwood and etched glass mirrors. Estimate: £15,000-20,000.

• A mid-16th century northern French or Flemish renaissance fragmentary marble figure of a classical maiden. In keeping with Renaissance convention, it is possible that the present fragmentary sculpture once represented one of three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) endorsed by the Church during the Middle Ages. The fragment recalls the work of the Flemish sculptor and architect Jacques Du Broeucq (c. 1500-1584). Estimate: £8,000-12,000.

• A pair of late 17th century Italian baroque walnut armchairs. Estimate: £6,000-8,000.

• A late 16th/early 17th century Elizabeth I carved oak and fruitwood marquetry coffer. The carved human figures sporting beards and breasts simultaneously defy identification as either female caryatids or male atlantes. Estimate: £3,000-5,000.

Bonhams Director of Private Collections, Charlie Thomas, said: "Lady Hamlyn's extraordinary collection of early vernacular furniture and textiles is a tribute to her deep interest in history, endless passion for beauty and unerring eye for quality. The sale offers a wonderful opportunity to acquire exquisite pieces of great craftsmanship collected by a true connoisseur. It is already generating a good deal of interest."

Lady Hamlyn graduated as a fashion designer from the Royal College of Art and was the head designer for Cresta Silks. She is well known for the ambition of her interior design projects, including the four-year venture to bring the historic Château de Bagnols in Beaujolais back to life. Her husband the publisher Paul Hamlyn (later Lord Hamlyn) established a charity in her name –The Helen Hamlyn Trust – as his 50th birthday present to her. The Trust mainly supports arts and educational projects in Great Britain and overseas. Lady Hamlyn masterminded the New Design For Old exhibition at the V&A Boilerhouse in 1986 and founded the DesignAge programme at the Royal College of Art 1999. The Helen Hamlyn Centre for inclusive design at the Royal College of Art is named after her.

1 September 2021

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