By Richard C. Marsh
“The Cathedral, Hackwood Park,” 1930s, from the Estate of Mrs. T.S. Eliot
Widely admired for its brilliant use of light and color, “The Cathedral, Hackwood Park,” was sold as lot #379 at a Christie’s London auction on November 20th, 2013. The seller was the Estate of Valerie Eliot, widow of T.S. Eliot. The selling price including buyer’s premium was £362,500 ($584,350).
The provenance is impressive, extending beyond T.S. Eliot. Churchill painted this arboreal scene at Hackwood House, Hampshire, the home of his friend Lord Camrose after 1935. The house was earlier leased by Lord Curzon. Camrose, owner of The Daily Telegraph and a good friend of the Churchills, led the postwar drive to raise the money to purchase and endow Chartwell, so the Churchills could live out their lives there, whence it passed to the National Trust. “The Cathedral, Hackwood Park” was a gift from Churchill to Camrose, and remained in that family until sold by the estate of the Second Viscount Camrose at Christie’s in June 1999. Valerie Eliot, the purchaser, spent £41,100 including buyer’s premium, equivalent to $68,340 at the time.
Valerie had been T.S. Eliot’s secretary and was much younger than the famous poet and author. They were married in 1956 and he died in 1965. The 2013 auction consisted of her art treasures, with the proceeds to benefit one of her charities, and was highlighted by an amazing collection of portrait miniatures. The auction grossed more than six million pounds.
This auction was just another example of the frothy market in collectibles. I participated without success in the Churchill/Forbes Christie’s auction in New York on December 6th. In light of my article, “Churchill and Flandin” (FH 157), I was most interested in a 1947 letter from Churchill to Ava, Lady Anderson, with an inscribed copy of The Gathering Storm. They went for $14,625, including buyer’s premium.
Another recent auction saw a copy of the Bay Psalms, the first book printed in British North America, sell for a reported $14.2 million. The purchaser was David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle hedge fund, presumably with wealth created by our “irrationally exuberant” stock market
Mr. Marsh is director of the Winston Churchill Society of Michigan Image by kind courtesy of Churchill Heritage Ltd.
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