The life of a leg­end

Country Life Every Week - - TOWN & COUNTRY -

IT’S now 50 years since Vivien Leigh died and, on Septem­ber 26, Sotheby’s Lon­don will host a land­mark sale of her paint­ings, jew­ellery, cou­ture, books, fur­ni­ture, porcelain and ob­jets d’art, a col­lec­tion that il­lus­trates her life, from the pre-sec­ond World War years in Lon­don to Hol­ly­wood and mar­riage to Sir Lau­rence Olivier.

‘This is our chance to dis­cover the real, and un­ex­pected, Vivien Leigh,’ says Harry Dal­meny, Sotheby’s UK Chair­man. ‘We’re all guilty of con­fus­ing our favourite ac­tresses with the hero­ines they por­tray, of blur­ring Vivien’s iden­tity with that of Scar­lett O’hara or Blanche Dubois. But, be­hind the guise of the most glam­orous and talked-about woman of her age, we find a fine-art col­lec­tor, pa­tron, even a book­worm, who was the in­tel­lec­tual equal of the literati, artists and aes­thetes she counted among her co­terie.’

He con­tin­ues: ‘Her pri­vate col­lec­tion does not dis­ap­point. Vivien ap­proached the dec­o­ra­tion of her homes as if she were de­sign­ing a set… with me­dieval Not­ley Abbey [where she lived with Olivier] look­ing pos­i­tively Shake­spearean.’

Es­ti­mates range from £100 to £100,000 and highlights from the col­lec­tion—in­clud­ing a still-life of Chartwell roses painted and pre­sented to her by Sir Win­ston Churchill in 1951 (£70,000–£100,000), with whom she en­joyed a close friend­ship—are cur­rently on dis­play at the New Bond Street show­room, Lon­don W1, un­til Au­gust 11; the full col­lec­tion will go on show from Septem­ber 22.

Other lots in­clude Leigh’s copy of Gone with the Wind, given to her by Mar­garet Mitchell (£5,000–£7,000), a gold ring in­scribed ‘Lau­rence Olivier Vivien Eter­nally’ (£400–£600) and a let­ter from Churchill dated July 18, 1957 (£2,000–£3,000), in which he prom­ises to do­nate money to St James’s The­atre, which Leigh was try­ing to save from de­mo­li­tion—she’d made front-page head­lines a week ear­lier when she was es­corted from the House of Lords for her im­pas­sioned de­fence of the build­ing.

The Wilt­shire house to which Leigh of­ten re­treated and the home of her first hus­band (from whom she took her stage name), Leigh Hol­man, is cur­rently on the mar­ket with Hum­berts

VIVIEN LEIGH’S grand­chil­dren have put her Wilt­shire re­treat on the mar­ket. De­spite her mar­riage to Sir Lau­rence Olivier, the ac­claimed Gone with the Wind ac­tress (above) re­mained close friends with her first hus­band, Leigh Hol­man. The cou­ple was mar­ried for eight years and her name ap­pears on al­most ev­ery other page in the guest book for Grade Ii-listed Queen Anne Manor Farm House, Zeals, which has an ask­ing price of £1.1 mil­lion. It’s set in just over an acre of grounds, with six bed­rooms, for­mal gar­dens and out­build­ings. Fur­ther land and build­ings are avail­able by sep­a­rate ne­go­ti­a­tion. Hum­berts (01722 324422)

Top: Ka­gool cou­ple: Vivien Leigh with her sec­ond hus­band, Sir Lau­rence Olivier.

Above: A ring, with the in­scrip­tion ‘Lau­rence Olivier Vivien Eter­nally’, is one of many of Leigh’s per­sonal ef­fects up for sale

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