For­mi­da­ble dealer Eila Gra­hame’s per­sonal col­lec­tion is the sub­ject of a tri­umphant sale, with the pro­ceeds of many items far ex­ceed­ing their es­ti­mates

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

ONLY once did I make the gauche mis­take of im­me­di­ately ask­ing the price of some­thing in the win­dow on en­ter­ing Eila Gra­hame’s Kens­ing­ton Church Street shop, earn­ing her trade­mark ri­poste: ‘You couldn’t af­ford it.’ Luck­ily, I was able to stam­mer out some­thing that showed I ac­tu­ally knew a lit­tle about what­ever it was I had been look­ing at. There­after, I was ac­knowl­edged as an ac­quain­tance and oc­ca­sion­ally al­lowed to buy things.

Even Lu­cian Freud found her in­tim­i­dat­ing. He would call in af­ter buy­ing his bread at Clark’s across the road and said that she looked like an Inuit soap­stone carv­ing, but those who knew her bet­ter put her for­mi­da­ble man­ner down to shy­ness.

No mat­ter, she had a won­der­ful eye and great knowl­edge, some of it ac­quired from her friend John Hewett, the lead­ing mid­cen­tury an­tiq­ui­ties and pri­malarts dealer. Her spe­cial­i­ties were early Bri­tish ce­ram­ics and glass, but she also dealt widely in fur­ni­ture and works of art.

She died in 2010 and hoped that her per­sonal col­lec­tion might find a per­ma­nent home in her an­ces­tral Scot­land—she was a kinswoman of Bon­nie Dundee, the 17th-cen­tury Ja­co­bite leader —but I am not sure whether this hap­pened. In any event, on Novem­ber 30, Ch­effins held a suc­cess­ful sale from the con­tents of her Lon­don and Suf­folk homes to­gether with items of stock that had re­mained in stor­age. The pro­ceeds are to be di­vided be­tween the Art Fund and the Church of St Mary of the As­sump­tion, Uf­ford, Suf­folk, where she is buried.

They may have been pleas­antly sur­prised by the amounts that they will have re­ceived, as a num­ber of the most soughtafter lots turned out to have been es­ti­mated far be­low their value. Most no­table was a set of three Neapoli­tan Doc­cia dishes painted with Ot­toman fig­ures and dat­ing from 1740–5. The cat­a­logue noted that only three oth­ers are known, all in mu­se­ums, which might have prompted a higher es­ti­mate than £6,000. The price was £88,900.

An­other of the most ex­pen­sive lots, sold for £72,390 paid by a Ger­man dealer whose rep­re­sen­ta­tive had trav­elled specif­i­cally to se­cure it, had been es­ti­mated to £5,000. This was a cork model of the Tem­ple of the Sibyl at Tivoli (Fig 5), which was signed by An­to­nio Chichi (1743–1816). On Fe­bru­ary 10 last year, I noted that such things were first made for Grand Tourists by the ar­chi­tect Au­gusto Rosa (1738–84), fol­lowed by Domenico Padiglione, who

Figs 2–4: Aus­trian nat­u­ral­ist Franz An­ton von Schiedel’s wa­ter­colour stud­ies of an oc­to­pus, tur­tle and tur­tle shell. £13,970 the set Fig 5: Cork model of the Tem­ple of the Sibyl at Tivoli. £72,390

Fig 1: Two-han­dled 1670s tyg or pos­set pot. £4,064

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