Pair of Italian marble models of Capricorns, 18th century recreations of the 16th century versions on the gate posts of the Boboli Gardens in Florence, £150,000 at Dreweatts.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

A strong bidding competition was generated in Newbury when Dreweatts (26/25/20/12.5%) offered the collection of the interior designer, art dealer and collector Count Manfredi Della Gherardesca (1961-2022).

A well-known name on the art and design scene, his collection created great interest and bidders paid substantial sums for many of the pieces, both antique and of more recent manufacture.

Count Manfredi was born in Florence, the youngest of three children to Count Guelfo della Gherardesca and Countess Adriana Guillichini.

After graduating from the University of Florence and Hunter College New York, he had a succession of different art world careers before establishing his interior design consultancy business which had a global clientele.


This pair of 4ft 3in (1.29m) high Austrian Art Nouveau era stands in ebonised beech and brass designed by Marcel Kammerer and made by Thonet of Vienna were bid to £13,000 at Dreweatts. The price was a multiple of their £2000-3000 guide and even more than the £6500 hammer that they realised when Count Manfredi purchased them at Christie’s in January 2022 from the sale of an interior designed by François-Joseph Graf.

The long-planned auction came with a detailed illustrated catalogue titled Alchemy of Design containing a foreword, introductions and tributes from friends and family.

The 424 lots were a distinctive and eclectic mix of old and modern purchased from dealers and auctions and reflecting Count Manfredi’s practised eye for what looked good together. At the auction on April 24 they were 95% sold, generating a premium-inclusive total of £1.6m.


The sale featured a selection of articulated silver and silver coloured models of fish manufactured in various countries. The Spanish models proved particularly popular. This 15½in (38.5cm) long silver model of a lion fish with glass eyes, from Madrid post-1934, .915 standard weighing 22.5oz gross, realised £3800 at Dreweatts.

Artistic worlds

Joe Robinson, Dreweatts' head of house sales and collections, said the sale “explored, and was a celebration of, the colourful artistic worlds that he created for himself and his clients.

“The auction was a culmination of over three years of planning, initially working with Manfredi himself and we are delighted with the result achieved for his family, as well as his legacy as a tastemaker.”


Small Japanese lacquer tebako (a box for personal accessories) from the Meiji era, a particularly elaborate example of the Shibayama style of decoration, applied with a profusion of flowers including peony and chrysanthemum in abalone, mother of pearl and other shells. The 3 x 4 x 1¾in (8 x 10 x 4.5cm) silver-mounted box sold for £4800 against a guide of £300-400 at Dreweatts.

Six-figure sculptures

Top billing and top price of the auction went, appropriately, to a Florentine marble sculpture: a pair of models of Capricorns attributed to the Roman sculptor Innocenzo Spinazzi (1726-98) dating from c.1775 (pictured top).

The 3ft 9in x 5ft (1.15 x 1.54cm) statues were thought possibly to have been those commissioned by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo (later Emperor Leopold II) as part of a decorative scheme for the restoration of the famous Boboli Gardens in Florence.

They were intended to recreate the previous existing 16th century Capricorns that decorated the gateposts (although in the end this did not come into fruition as the originals were restored instead).

Count Manfredi had found the present examples in an Italian antique shop and was thrilled to learn their background, having lived close to the Boboli Gardens and passed the originals every day for years.

Dreweatts’ 18th century versions of the model were guided at £80,000-120,000 and ended up selling for £150,000 to a UK private buyer.

High-rise result


A 19th century teak architectural model of Qutb Minar in Delhi, £60,000 at Dreweatts.

One of the best-sellers was a large 19th century teak architectural model of Qutb Minar in Delhi, a red sandstone tower that was built from 1193-1230 for Qutb-ud-din-Aibak who was the first sultan of the Delhi Sultanate. Formerly part of the collection of London dealer Christopher Gibbs, it was sold at Christie’s in 2000.

Count Manfredi purchased it 18 years later at another Christie’s auction when the later upper section had been added in poplar wood, taking the overall height to 8ft 2in (2.51m). Offered with an estimate of £20,000-30,000 together with a 19th century photograph of the tower, it ended up selling for £60,000 to a UK buyer.

The red sandstone tower was constructed in 1193-1230 with the upper stories rebuilt by Firoz Shah between 1288-93.

When it was sold from the Gibbs collection, this teak model was depicted as it was prior to the 1288-93 rebuilding. Subsequently the upper stories in poplar were commissioned to complete the model to reflect the tower as it was in a paining of c.1830.

The painting shows what was then considered a controversial cupola added in 1828 by the garrison engineer of Delhi, Colonel Robert Smith, who was tasked with the restoration of some of the Mughal monuments including the Red Fort and the Jami Masjid.

The cupola was taken down in 1848 under the instructions of Viscount Hardinge, Governor General of India, as it did not match the Sultanate structure. It was reinstalled at the ground level to the east of the Qutb Minar where it has become known as ‘Smith’s Folly’.

Paintings in demand


Oil portrait of Gerald Heard by Glyn Philpot that led the paintings when it sold for £32,000 at Dreweatts.

Several paintings, both Old Masters and more recent works, also featured among the top lots.

These included a portrait of Gerald Heard (1889-1971) by the British artist Glyn Philpot (1884-1937) executed in oil on canvas board and measuring 18 x 12½in (46.5 x 31.5cm), which had a provenance to the Rowley Gallery.

The subject was a friend of Aldous Huxley, WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood and a follower of the Verdanta spiritual movement.

The portrait found a buyer just over the top end of the £20,000-30,000 guide at £32,000.


Jacob Ferdinand Saeys’ architectural scene from 1694 which sold for £24,000 at Dreweatts.

Among the Old Masters, a 3ft 1in x 2ft 4½in (94 x 73cm) oil on canvas by the Dutch artist Jacob Ferdinand Saeys (1659-1725/6) depicted a classical architectural scene of a portico with a fountain, around which were gathered an elegant company. The painting, which was signed and dated 1694, was purchased by Count Manfredi at a Sotheby’s New York sale in 2011. Here it realised £24,000.

Furniture stars


An 1880s Chinoiserie bamboo, rattan, walnut and part ebonised side cabinet by La Maison des Bambous, Paris, £13,000 at Dreweatts.

It was bamboo and rattan furniture (of which there were plenty of examples here) rather than traditional mahogany, walnut or giltwood that seemed to be a particularly popular category. Several pieces of varying dates far exceeded estimates.

One was a French chinoiserie creation from the 1880s when such orientalist pieces were very fashionable. This was a 4ft 6in (1.37m) wide breakfront side cabinet made from bamboo, rattan, walnut and part ebonised wood that had come from the Maison des Bambous, a company producing Chinese taste furnishings as well as trading in Chinese antiques and furniture that was founded in 1872 by Ernest Vibert and Robert Perret.

The elaborately decorated piece, labelled Perret & Vibert Paris, constructed with a series of openwork panels and a raised gallery, was bought by a US collector for £13,000.

Another example to make well in excess of its guide was a pair of demi-lune shaped bamboo side tables made in China for export to the west and dated to the first half of the 20th century. These were guided at £1000-1500 but ended up selling to a UK buyer for £12,000.

Various other 20th century bamboo and rattan chests, side cabinets and chairs were also making four-figure sums against three-figure predictions.

Distinctive look


A number of group lots of embossed copper fishes and other specimens of marine life were often the object of keen bidding. This group of 10 Venetian examples dated to the second half of the 20th century were among the most expensive, selling for £13,000 at Dreweatts.

Plenty of other 20th century decorative pieces also proved to be in demand with bidders (a reflection, perhaps, of Count Manfredi’s ‘alchemy of design’ skills in mixing works from different periods to create a distinctive look).

They included Caltigirone maiolica vases and Italian pottery poodles as well as numerous marine-themed lots: silver and copper models of fish and Portuguese pottery plates decorated with crustacea in Palissy style.


Life-sized 2ft 3iin (68.5cm) white glazed Italian pottery model of a poodle from the second half of the 20th century, £3800 at Dreweatts.

Not everything flew past Dreweatts’ guidelines and it was possible to secure pieces for less than predicted in some cases.

A 3ft 3in (1m) wide Empire period kneehole desk of c.1810 in bronze mounted and parcel gilt amboyna and mahogany, with a hinged top that opens to reveal a rising architectural superstructure containing secret drawers and compartments, came in at £3000 against a £4000-6000 guide.

A substantial 5ft 9in (1.75m) mid-Victorian gothic style oak library table of c.1860 retailed by the Tottenham Court Road, London, firm James Shoolbred & Co came in at £1800 (estimate £2000-3000).

From the antique silver on offer, a William III period 23.35oz tankard engraved with an armorial for the Pearson family of Flintshire, made by John Sutton, London 1700, sold for £2200 against predictions of £2500-3500.