Top stock of sport­ing art flies the nest

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

“He col­lected, on re­flec­tion, a ridicu­lous num­ber of pieces,” says As­tor. “They suited the house per­fectly – both in terms of pe­riod, which is late Vic­to­rian, and be­cause it is a sport­ing es­tate.”

The col­lec­tion in­cludes dozens of paint­ings and sketches by Thor­burn, as well as rel­e­vant works by con­tem­po­rary artists, many done at Til­lypronie. “My fa­ther and my great-grand­fa­ther [Wil­liam Wal­dorf As­tor] were great col­lec­tors, and in my hum­ble way – just on eBay – I was al­ways rather ac­quis­i­tive,” says As­tor. “When I in­her­ited, very young, at the age of 25, I con­tin­ued to col­lect but I di­ver­si­fied.”

As well as what Christie’s has called “the best col­lec­tion of this type of work that will ever come on to the mar­ket”, the auc­tion will in­clude fur­ni­ture and other art from Til­lypronie, which As­tor sold ear­lier this year at an ask­ing price of £10.5mil­lion. “Part of that is so we can try to recre­ate a sense of the rooms,” says Annabel Kishor, who is run­ning the auc­tion for Christie’s. “It helps to tell the story of the house, its his­tory, and all the peo­ple who stayed there.”

Built in 1867 by Sir John Clark, the son of Queen Vic­to­ria’s physi­cian, Til­lypronie has hosted a who’s who of high so­ci­ety. Henry James lauded the “supremely com­fort­able house” with its “glo­ri­ous view of sweep­ing hills and glo­ri­ous lochs”, while Harold Macmil­lan noted in his di­ary that the stan­dard of com­fort was very high. Til­lypronie started as a sum­mer home for the As­tors, be­fore they moved there in 1982 af­ter sell­ing the fam­ily seat in Kent, Hever Cas­tle.

In 2002, the Queen vis­ited Til­lypronie to plant a tree in the Golden Ju­bilee gar­den. “I had a dog called Bill at the time, who didn’t ob­serve the full de­gree of pro­to­col,” As­tor re­calls of his pet’s toi­let mishap. “The Queen seemed to un­der­stand the ways of dogs and didn’t seem in any way un­set­tled.”

It was not the Queen’s first stop at Til­lypronie, nor was she the first royal guest. Queen Vic­to­ria, who was a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor (Bal­moral is a short drive away) laid the foun­da­tion stone of the house. A wa­ter­colour she painted of a stag is in­cluded in the Christie’s auc­tion at a guide price of £6,000 to £10,000. “She was quite pro­lific but most of her work is in the royal col­lec­tion,” says Kishor. “It’s un­usual to see some­thing like this that’s not por­trait stud­ies of her chil­dren.”

All this con­text serves to tell a good story rather than to in­crease fi­nan­cial gain, says Kishor. “The As­tor name cer­tainly en­gages peo­ple and piques their in­ter­est, but it doesn’t ac­tu­ally add value to each in­di­vid­ual item.” The lots, which range in price from a few hun­dred quid to £100,000 ( Thor­burn’s Blackgame in the glen), are ex­pected to bring in a to­tal sum in ex­cess of £1.5mil­lion. They go un­der the ham­mer on Fri­day Dec 15, along with an on­line-only sale un­til Dec 18.

It’s the end of an era for the Til­lypronie col­lec­tion, which is likely to be dis­persed among many buy­ers. It’s bit­ter­sweet, says As­tor. “But I’m heart­ened by the idea that the pos­ses­sions which my fa­ther and I took such de­light in as­sem­bling will find a new gen­er­a­tion of ap­pre­cia­tive homes.”

Philip As­tor and Jus­tine Pi­cardie, be­low right, mar­ried in 2012 at Til­lypronie, be­low, sell­ing it ear­lier this year A pair of red grouse in moor­land by Thor­burn, main, hangs in the draw­ing room at Til­lypronie; his Blackgame in the glen, be­low, is the auc­tion’s prici­est lot

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