The Fine Fortnum & Mason Sale at Bonhams

. July 28, 2007

Bonhams will hold a special sale offering selected items from the renowned London store, Fortnum & Mason, on Wednesday 26 September 2007 at Bonhams in New Bond Street, London. The sale will raise a fund to be reinvested in new acquisitions for the refurbished Fortnum & Mason premises in time for its 300th anniversary. The sale will include paintings, prints, chandeliers, wine, furniture, and decorative shop furnishings and fittings.

George Plumptre of Bonhams’ Chairman’s office says , “I am delighted that Bonhams have been asked to assist with this unique sale. It’s a wonderful opportunity to acquire a piece of history from one of London’s great iconic institutions.”

Beverley Aspinall, Managing Director of Fortnum & Mason, says, ”To me, two British institutions, such as Bonhams auctioneers and Fortnum & Mason, form the perfect partnership, and we’re delighted that our paths have crossed for the forthcoming, much-anticipated sale. It’s a truly unique opportunity for people to take a little piece of Fortnum’s rich history home with them and we’re so looking forward to our paintings, furniture, fixtures and fittings finding worthy new homes.”

All the paintings in the Bonhams sale were purchased for the Fortnum & Mason building by Jana Khayat’s grandfather, Garfield Weston (1898 – 1978) – the Chairman of Fortnum & Mason from 1951 until 1978.

Painting highlights include
An oil on canvas of The Gallant Speedy by Montague Dawson (British 1895-1973) – estimated at £50,000-80,000. The commander of the Gallant Speedy was the renowned naval officer, Lord Thomas Cochrane, who was a Fortnum & Mason client. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars (1793-1815) saw many heroic single ship engagements but few were as daring or as decisive as the 1801, His Majesty’s brig-sloop ‘Speedy’. Although an extremely handy little craft, the diminutive ‘Speedy’ was a mere 208 tons and mounted only a fourteen four-pounder cannon on her 59-foot gundeck. Built in Mr King’s yard in Dover, she was launched in June 1782 – just as the American War of Independence was drawing to a close – and therefore found little gainful employment until the War with Revolutionary France declared in February 1793. On 28th March 1800, ‘Speedy’s’ command devolved upon Lord Thomas Cochrane, an ambitious and well-connected young naval officer who was already making his mark in the service. Sent to cruise off the Iberian Peninsular under orders to disrupt enemy coastal trade, his spectacular success forced the Spanish authorities to act quickly and, within days, several vessels were despatched to locate ‘Speedy’ and take or destroy her. One of these enemy cruisers was the large 32-gun frigate ‘El Gamo’ and she sighted what she took to be the ‘Speedy’ during the first week of April. Realizing the need for subterfuge, Cochrane immediately hove-to whilst ordering Danish colours to be hoisted. Dressing one of his officers in a Danish uniform to aid the deception, Cochrane himself made a surreptitious study of ‘Gamo’s’ armament and manpower whilst the Spanish boatcrew rowed across to verify his ship’s papers. Before the boat got alongside however, the officer-in-charge was told that the supposedly Danish merchantman had just come from plague-ridden North Africa whereupon the inspection was hastily abandoned and ‘Speedy’ permitted to get underway without hindrance. A month later, on 6th May, the two adversaries sighted each other again off Barcelona and, this time, Cochrane attacked his much larger foe with a ferocity that stunned the Spaniards with its speed and audacity. ‘Speedy’ opened fire first at about 9 o’clock in the morning; twice Cochrane frustrated Spanish attempts to board the ‘Speedy’ before leading his own boarding party onto ‘Gamo’ after the furious action which had lasted for forty-five minutes. Despite there being nearly 300 men on ‘Gamo’s’ main deck, Cochrane’s band of only 40 forced her surrender in barely ten minutes, ‘Gamo’s’ commander being amongst the numerous Spanish casualties. Accompanied by her prize, ‘Speedy’ made for Port Mahon, Minorca, and when news of her exploit reached London, Cochrane’s reputation was created in an instant. The capture of a valuable enemy frigate by a far smaller vessel with considerably inferior fire-power was the stuff of legend and the story of the “gallant little ‘Speedy’” soon became one of those tales upon which generations of naval officers would be reared. Also by Montague Dawson is Thermopylae (£15,000 – 20,000) and The Half Moon, Melody in Silver (£10,000 – 15,000).

An oil on canvas of The Vale of Dedham by Frederick William Watts (British 1800-1862) – estimated at £40,000-60,000

The Vale of Dedham depicts an stunning view of Constable Country, looking west towards Dedham, with the tower of Church of St Mary the Virgin standing proud on the horizon. Also by Frederick William Watts is Canal at Dedham with a barge – estimated at £20,000-25,000.

An oil on canvas by Henry Edmond Detmold titled Watching the Fishing Fleet. portrays a group of elderly fishermen, young wives and children on a cliff overlooking a Cornish estuary, with the herring fleet putting to sea – estimated at £10,000 – 15,000

A set of three Hunting party paintings by Gerrit Malleyn – estimated at £30,000-50,000

The Bacino di San Marco by James, William – estimated at £20,000 – 30,000

Star of Persia (£15,000-20,000), Dashing Wave (£8,000-12,000), Red Clouds (£12,000-18,000) and Golden Fleece (£5,000-8,000) by Henry Scott Cutty Sark by Paul Richardson – estimated at £8,000-12,000

Summer Thunder off the Chinese Coast by Barry Mason – estimated at £6,000-8,000

Also included in the sale is a beautiful modern dolls-house modelled as the three-storey building of Fortnum & Mason (£1,500-2,000). The front of the dolls-house opens to reveal a staircase, interior archways, shelves and shop fittings and six departments including a Food Hall, China & Glass, Clocks, Perfumerie and Wine.

A pair of Menu designs for the Fountain Restaurant by Oliver Hilary Sambourne Messel (British 1904-1978) will also be available. Oliver Messel’s reputation rests principally on his position as one of England’s foremost stage designers of the mid-20th century. Grandson of the Victorian artist, Linley Sambourne, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art and within a few years of leaving had established himself as a designer, decorator and painter. He was first commissioned to produce catalogue and interior design work for Fortnum & Mason during the 1930s, when the store’s only restaurant was the Patio.

The far grander Fountain Restaurant opened in 1955, with a central fountain and Grinling Gibbons-style mouldings on the wall. It was for the menus for this new restaurant that Messel produced these designs for the covers. The Fountain’s original decorative scheme was replaced in the 1970s when Hugh Casson and Berkeley Sutcliffe (the designer of the famous fortnum’s clock) oversaw a new design. Two decades later, Michael Dillon created the well-loved murals depicting the story of tea.

Fortnum & Mason (1707 – 2007)

In the first decade of the 18th century, Hugh Mason ran a stabling and ostling business – Mason’s Yard off Duke Street still bears his name. William Fortnum rented Mason’s spare room before aristocratic connections led him into the service of Queen Anne, where the nightly footman’s perk of emptying the royal candlesticks of beeswax initiated an increasingly profitable recycling business for the entrepreneurial Fortnum. The stubs were melted down into new candles to sell on to the ladies of the court, and so successful was the enterprise that landlord and tenant set up shop in Duke Street for the discerning general public.

Fortnum & Mason first made its name under the Hanoverian Kings, as Piccadilly and its environs developed into the most fashionable part of the most exciting city in the world. Grand houses built for dukes, earls and rich hopefuls imposed their presence on the area. Fortnum and Mason were quick to seize the opportunity and daily sent liveried page boys to the aristocratic residences, such as Buckingham House, Clarence House, Spencer House and the Great Burlington House.

The shop was decorated from the 1920s to the 1950s by the rising stars of theatrical art including Allan Walton’s whose decorations were other-worldly, featuring murals and panels with mythical creatures and fantastic landscapes to enhance the sense of stepping into fairyland on arrival at Fortnums.

Today, Fortnum & Mason is just as much an experience of style, beauty and presentation, which is reinforced in the paintings, and works of art in this sale.

Category: Auction News

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