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The release of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial text in 1959 stirred up controversy and George Weidenfeld, who had founded his publishing firm with writer and politician Nigel Nicholson 10 years earlier, was briefly under threat of prosecution under the UK’s obscenity laws

In keeping with this infamous episode in Lord Weidenfeld’s career, two of the pieces that will go under the hammer at Christie’s in May are nude female studies.

Schiele’s 1918 Study of a female model is more overtly sexual, showing a figure with legs opened toward the viewer and head turned away. The black chalk on paper piece is estimated at £200,000-300,000.

Also on offer is Giacometti’s pencil drawing Femme debout which includes another work on the verso Deux tetes d’homme. The work dates from 1947 when the artist was focusing on drawing and is estimated at £250,000-350,000.

Ultimately Lolita sold well, and its release paved the way for books such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover which Penguin published in 1960 but did lead to an obscenity charge.

In 1973, Weidenfeld and Nicholson would also publish Portrait of a Marriage, the latter’s frank account of his parents’ (Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson) extramarital affairs.

Many interests

The collection at Christie’s is estimated to take in excess of £1.4m and includes a variety of artworks and objects that Weidenfeld amassed during his life.

The collector left his home in Vienna to settle in London before the Second World War. During his life he was by turns a BBC journalist, a publisher and a public supporter of Jewish and Zionist causes. His collection appears at Christie’s on May 18.

Among the other works appearing at the sale are a bust of Pope Urban VIII from the workshop of Bernini estimated at £30,000-50,000, a c1820 desk attributed to Gillows estimated at £40,000 -60,000 and a French architectural model late 19th century estimated at £800-1200.