Private collection of Countess of Snowdon offered at auction

Royal items among the collection
The private collection of Serena, Countess of Snowden.

The private collection of Serena, Countess of Snowden, including sculpture, furniture, fine art and decorative objects from many of the UK’s celebrated design figures, such as Robert Kime, David Mlinaric and Rita Konig, was sold in a special auction this week.

The Countess of Snowdon is the daughter-in-law of the late Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, having married her only son David Armstrong-Jones.

Among the highlights of the items were historical royal gifts, such as a charcoal work by Belgian artist Rik Wouters (1882-1916), titled Rue d’Amsterdam, which was a gift to Princess Margaret (1930-2002) by the King and Queen of Belgium on their visit to London in May 1963.

Three bottles of dry Riesling from the Rhine, Germany, from Kensington palace, are believed to have been bottled for Princess Margaret for the Silver Jubilee in 1976.

A decorative boomerang curtain commissioned by Lady Cutler, the wife of the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler (1916-2002), for Princess Margaret, also featured in the sale. It was made by the members of the Embroiderers Guild of New South Wales in 1975 and comprised 54 individual panels by different members, all within ribbon borders. A panel on the reverse described each embroidery and gives details of the embroiderer.

Other objects that passed from Princess Margaret’s collection at Kensington Palace included her brown leather riding boots by royal equestrian boot makers Maxwell of London. Both Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II were keen riders all of their lives, having started riding lessons very young.

An early George III sabicu Pembroke table, dating from circa 1760, which was also inherited and housed at Kensington Palace, is attributed to the cabinet maker Henry Hill of Marlborough, who also traded as an auctioneer and coach-maker.

He was well known for supplying furniture to the Wiltshire aristocracy. Inside, a paper label reads: ‘Pembroke table, Kensington palace, 1967’. Highly decorative, the top and flaps sport distinctive lozenge geometric veneering. A frieze drawer and chamfered square legs, with blind fret decoration, completes the overall look.

A charming 20th-century walnut and tapestry upholstered stool in George II style and also from Princess Margaret’s apartments at Kensington Palace, features a decorative top with shell carved knees and pad feet.

Commenting on the collection, Joe Robinson, Dreweatts Head of House Sales & Collections, said the collection included pieces supplied by many of the UK’s renowned design figures and companies such as Hugh Henry, Mlinaric, Kime and Konig, which all points towards a “vibrant mise en scene, designed for comfort and good living.”

A maquette for the larger version of a work titled Still Water, which was first installed at Marble Arch and is now housed at the Daylesford home of Lord and Lady Bamford, was a highlight of the sale. The work is by the British sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green, who specialises in creating realistic depictions of both smaller and larger than life-sized models of horses’ heads.

Among the fine art in the sale was a preliminary sketch of Prince Augustus Frederick, the 8th Duke of Sussex, for an oil painting now in the Royal Collection. The painting is currently hanging on the grand staircase at Buckingham Palace and was presented to Queen Victoria by the sitter.

Among many affordable items in the collection was an interesting study in watercolour and pencil for the Coronation Chair, an ancient wooden chair British monarchs sit on during their coronations. It was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I to hold the ‘Stone of Scone’, which he had captured from the Scots. The chair was named after Edward the Confessor, and until 1997, it was held in his shrine at Westminster Abbey.

Among the pieces by well-known designers in the sale is a cream, red and green floral carpet designed by Scottish interior designer Henry for interior decorator Mlinaric – a partnership that has spanned decades and included projects around the globe. This vibrant carpet has a border of leaves around a trailing pink and dotted design.

Two large ‘Belle Rives’ lacquer drinks trays by Konig for The Lacquer Company add a contemporary twist. In contrast, is a folding triptych fire screen by the late celebrated designer Kime, sporting bell-shaped feet and an arched handle.

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