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£6.4m for Cowdray Sale

20 September 2011Written by ATG Reporter

BILLED as the largest and most important country house auction of the year, Christie's three-day sale at Cowdray Park in West Sussex, netted £6.4m hammer against a £5m top estimate.

The George V silver table, above, from the Mexican Silver Suite at Cowdray Park, was one of object actually commissioned by the family to appear in the 1256-lot sale.

Based on the celebrated set of Stuart period silver furniture in the King's Room at Knole in Kent, it was almost certainly ordered by Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Pearson (1856-1927), who acquired many pieces included in this auction. The 2ft 10½in (87.6cm) wide table, elaborately decorated with a scene of Pan and Apollo engaged in a musical contest and with a C cipher below a viscount's coronet, sold for £68,000 - over four times its lower estimate. A pair of mirrors also based on the Stuart silver in the King's Room at Knole sold for a combined £135,000.

The sale, which aimed to sell off much of the furniture and works of art from the home of Michael Pearson, the 4th Viscount Cowdray, prior to the house itself being disposed of, included the contents of Dunecht House in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, home to Lord Cowdray's brother, Charles Pearson. Christie's sold 93 per cent of the lots, with a rate of 96 per cent by value. With attractively pitched estimates ranging from £50 to over £500,000, the sale also included a diverse selection of lots, from British pictures, furniture and works of art, silver, arms and armour and tapestries, to firemen's helmets and a jukebox.

The top price was for an English School portrait of a lady, c.1595-1605, traditionally identified as Queen Elizabeth I, but more probably Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham, which enjoyed plenty of pre-sale attention.

It sold towards the lower end of its estimate for £270,000. Three paintings by James Ferrier Pryde (1866-1941) broke the auction record price for the artist on three occasions, led by The Red Ruin, 1910, which sold for £75,000.

In July a selection of nine works of art from Cowdray Park were sold at Christie's King Street, which included Thomas Gainsborough's full-length portrait of Mrs William Villebois, which took £5.8m, a record for the artist at auction.

A full report of the Cowdray Sale will appear in next week's issue.

By Gabriel Berner

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