Daisy Fellowes by Cecil Beaton
Sketch of Daisy Fellowes by Cecil Beaton – £1700 at Bonhams.

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Sold to the private UK owner as a single lot by Christie’s back in 1988, they were offered here separately at the auction on May 12 with hopes of £400-£1800 apiece. All of them sold for a hammer total of £19,540.

Bonhams specialist in Modern British and Irish art and head of the sale Janet Hardie said: “Even amid the current situation, there is still a real appetite for beautiful works of art. The Cecil Beaton sketches in particular offered a timely sense of escapism, encapsulating the glamour, fun and freedom of the Roaring Twenties.”

The good reaction to the group sale followed the considerable interest that had emerged at Amersham Auction Rooms in October last year for a Cecil Beaton sketch of Christian Dior working in his studio in Paris. Offered from the estate of society dress designer Ian Thomas (1929-93), the drawing had sold for £5200.

'All eyes upon her'

Estimated at £1200-1800 at Bonhams was a 15 x 13in (39 x 33cm) sketch of Daisy Fellowes (1980-1962), heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune as well as a notable beauty and trendsetter in the 1920s and 30s.

In The Book of Beauty, Beaton wrote: “If the door is opened and the willowy Mrs Fellowes swishes in, all eyes are upon her and she completely vanquishes any other beauty who may be unfortunate enough to be present.”

Knocked down at £1700, it made the highest price among the group at Bonhams.

Also bringing a decent competition was Beaton’s pen and ink sketch of Iva, Lady Abdy, an actress who he depicted in costume as Hamlet. Estimated at 1200-1800, it sold at £1400.

Lady Abdy was born in St Petersburg and escaped from the Russian Revolution by fleeing to Finland with her family, before later moving to Paris where she socialised with Coco Chanel and Jean Cocteau.

Another lot that commanded bidding was a pen, ink and pencil drawing of Viscountess D'Abernon (1866-1954) which was derived from a portrait of the sitter painted by John Singer Sargent during a visit to Venice in 1904.

The subject was associated with the aristocratic intellectual group known as The Souls and trained during the First World War as a nurse anaesthetist.

Here the lot was estimated at £1000-1500 and it sold at £1300.

Overall the Bonhams sale raised a £491,340 hammer total with 187 of the 222 lots finding buyers (84%). The saleroom reported a record number of bidders for the Knightsbridge department and the sold-by-value rate was 88%.

A further report of this Knightsbridge sale will appear in Art Market in a future print edition of ATG.

More art sales at Bonhams currently scheduled to take place behind closed doors include a series of auctions staged from its New Bond Street premises. These include 19th Century and British Impressionist art on June 3 and Modern and Contemporary Art on June 24. See the full list of Bonhams sales.