. September 27, 2007

Enthusiastic bidders packed the saleroom at Bonhams in New Bond Street with the aim of buying a piece of history from Fortnum & Masons – one of London’s great iconic institutions. Prices for paintings, prints, chandeliers, wine, furniture and decorative shop furnishings and fittings soared way over estimate in this one off sale. The entire sale fetched in excess of I million pounds.

Many of the bidders were regulars at the Fortnum & Mason tea room, which is currently undergoing refurbishment. The sale has raised a fund which will be reinvested in new acquisitions for the refurbished premises in time for its 300th anniversary.

George Plumptre of Bonhams Chairman’s Office said, “We are delighted with the success of the sale which gives an indication of the high esteem in which Fortnum & Mason is held and the many happy memories which people associate with the famous store.” Beverley Aspinall, Fortnum & Mason managing director, commented: “We’re delighted with how successful the sale has been and very pleased that so many people wish to keep their own piece of Fortnum’s heritage. It has been a pleasure to work with Bonhams and hope that the new owners enjoy the pieces as much we have.”

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) which fetched £180,000 (estimate £50,000-80,000). The commander of the Gallant Speedy was the renowned naval officer, Lord Thomas Cochrane, who was a Fortnum & Mason client.
An oil on canvas of The Bacino di San Marco by William James fetched £90,000 (estimate £40,000-60,000)
An oil on canvas by Henry Edmond Detmold titled Watching the Fishing Fleet. fetched £44,400 (estimate £10,000 – 15,000)
A beautiful modern dolls-house modelled as the three-storey building of Fortnum & Mason fetched 6 times its estimate to realise £7200. 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.

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.

Panels that decorated the Fountain restaurant, commissioned from the muralist, Michael Dillon fetched up to 12 times their estimate. A painted panel depicting the quayside at a Chinese port in the 18th century fetched £12,000 (estimate £600-900) while a painted panel depicting a quayside in China with tea being loaded into boats fetched £13,200 (estimate £600-900).

A series of panels painted to decorate specially made arched niches on the walls of the food halls fetched 6 times their estimate. A semi-circular painted wall panel depicting flowers fetched £3,600 (estimate £300-500) while a wall panel depicting figures drinking brandy & port fetched £3360 (estimate £300-500).

A lighting highlight included a pair of chandeliers of tent and baguette form which doubled their estimate to fetch £13,200 while tea caddies fetched 10 times their estimate.

A series of hand made window displays from the renowned childrens book, ‘The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland’ that were used in the Fortnum & Mason windows during Christmas 2006 also soared in price.

The series, which included The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ fetched 6 times its estimate at £7800, while ‘Advice from the caterpillar’ fetched £4,200. The window scenes took three months to produce in mixed media using materials such as clay, timber and fibre glass. Each set measures 87 inches wide, 28 in deep and 96 inches high (221 x 71 x 244 cm) and were individually estimated to fetch £1,500-2,000.

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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