A pair of charming capricci [poetic imaginary compositions] by Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793), were acquired 40 years ago. Estimate: £50,000-70,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.
LONDON - On 12 July, Christie’s London will offer two private collections in one auction: Works of Art from The Collection of the late Lord Forte and An Interior by Françoise de Pfyffer. This sale presents the discerning style of the late Lord and Lady Forte - keen collectors with an excellent eye for important, decorative and beautiful objects - alongside that of the inimitable tastemaker Françoise de Pfyffer, the glamorous decorator and designer whose prestigious career has spanned three decades; first as a contemporary art dealer and then as a decorator. Featuring over 340 lots in total, with estimates ranging from £500 to £250,000, the sale as a whole is expected to realise in the region of £1.5 million. Highlights include contemporary art, Alberto and Diego Giacometti bronze furniture, European Old Master paintings, English and European furniture and works of art, important Russian porcelain, silver, clocks and decorative objects.
Works of Art from the Collection of the late Lord Forte (Lots 1 - 205):
The Forte family name is synonymous with the world famous hotel brand established by the entrepreneurial magnate Charles Forte (1908-2007), who created a worldwide empire of restaurants and hotels from virtually nothing. Having opened his first ‘milk bar’ on Regent Street, London, at the age of 26 in 1935, he built an impressive portfolio and a company which became FTSE 100 listed. He was awarded a knighthood in 1970 and was subsequently raised to the peerage, as a life peer, in 1982 as Baron Forte of Ripley in Surrey. The Forte legacy of excellence and luxury now lives on in the form of the Rocco Forte Hotels, a collection of five-star hotels.
Lord Forte’s skill as a collector was highlighted by the resounding success of his L.S. Lowry collection, sold at Christie’s in November 2011; the most important collection of works by the artist ever to come to auction. The present group of 205 works from their Belgravia home is offered on behalf of Lord and Lady Forte’s descendants and illustrates the breadth of this fascinating couple’s interests; from Russian Imperial porcelain (lots 100-103) and eighteenth-century Venetian views, by the Master of the Langmatt Foundation views (lots 50-52) to Lord Forte’s desk chair (lot 152) or Lady Forte's collection of Neapolitan crèche figures (lots 131-138). This sale, with the inclusion of items such as gifts from King Umberto II of Italy (1904-1983) (lots 13-16), gives a rare glimpse into the private world of one of Britain's most illustrious businessmen.
A pair of charming capricci [poetic imaginary compositions] by Francesco Guardi (Venice 1712-1793), were acquired 40 years ago (estimate: £50,000-70,000). It is thought that Guardi produced such works to suit the taste of Ventian patrons who preferred them to the straightforward topographic views of Venice which appealed to foreign tourists. These works repeat motifs such as ruined classical arches and churches, Gothic ruins and dilapidated bridges often inhabited by peasants, fishermen or washerwomen and sometimes elegantly dressed figures.
Nine Russian porcelain plates are offered from the Kremlin service, commissioned by Emperor Nicholas I in 1837. Made by the Imperial porcelain factory, St Petersburg, each of the four dinner plates and five serving plates are inscribed with red inventory numbers for the Winter Palace. The design was entrusted to the painter and future professor of the Academy of Arts, F.G. Solntsev and the motifs were inspired by 17th century Russian metalwork (estimate: £40,000-60,000).
A remarkable early 19th century Italian Royal ormolu-mounted lapis lazuli, porphyry, crystal and onyx inkstand, modelled as La Fontana dei Dioscuri, Rome and attributed to the workshops of Giuseppe Valadier, Rome, was given to Lord Forte at Christmas, 1983, by the children of the late King Umberto II of Italy in memory of their father who had been a friend of Lord Forte, (estimate: £20,000-40,000).
An Interior by Françoise De Pfyffer (Lots 210-349): Françoise de Pfyffer, the charismatic and glamorous decorator and designer, has had a prestigious career spanning three decades, first as a contemporary art dealer and then as a decorator. Based in Geneva but working throughout Europe and the Americas, her characteristic modern style and knowledge of contemporary art gained her much acclaim among her sophisticated international clientele. Paralelle, the gallery she opened in Geneva in 1975, represented artists such as Hockney, Bacon and César. During this early period, the renowned decorator Nicky Haslam was a great friend and supporter as was Heinz Berggruen (d. 2007), the internationally revered art dealer and collector, whose apartment in Geneva and house in Gstaad she decorated. Berggruen introduced Françoise de Pfyffer to many artists, one of them being Diego Giacometti, whose bronze furniture she admired and collected. Several of the other contemporary artists featured in this interior, such as Pavlos, Rotterdam and Uecker, she had met or known for many years. Françoise de Pfyffer made many acquisitions at Galerie Bonnier, both in Lausanne and also Geneva, which was managed by her great friend and contemporary Jan Rumquist. In all her projects, art played an important role, providing structure and meaning to the decorative mis-en-scène.
Situated on the étage noble of a ‘Haussmannian’ building of grand proportions, the beautiful apartment from which this interior comes was decorated by Françoise de Pfyffer in the late 1990s. She selected many of the pictures and decorative arts and brilliantly mixed them with various inherited family treasures. Juxtaposing old and new works of art, Françoise de Pfyffer created a tranquil décor mainly with a palette of muted off-whites. In the drawing room and en suite dining-room, a painted striped pattern was applied to the walls, subtly matching the silk taffeta curtains and cotton chair covers. Contemporary works by Riopelle, Klein, Arman and Wesselman hung alongside Old Master pictures, 17th and 18th century furniture, early books and objets d'art. The result was a beautiful and spacious series of rooms, a sophisticated backdrop for an interesting collection of contemporary art, antique furniture and beautiful objects. One of the designer’s most accomplished interiors; it truly demonstrates the decorating ‘genius’ of Françoise de Pfyffer.
An arresting untitled painting, from 1953, by Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), marks an important period in the artist’s oeuvre: when he discovered what was to become his signature style of applying and smearing the paint with his palette knife (estimate: £150,000-250,000). Displaying an intricate mosaic of colour and forms, the painterly surface creates an interplay of contrasts and instills an intense awareness in the viewer of the activity of the artist – who is known to have been a trance-like state - when applying the colours.
Fauteuil à tête de lioness, by Diego Giacometti (1902-1985), was acquired directly from the artist, circa 1975 – 1976 (estimate: £40,000-60,000). This striking chair illustrates the way that Diego Giacometti merged the world of sculpture and furniture design in to one remarkable whole, brought to life by the artist’s unique imagination, his sense of proportion. The elegant lioness’s heads reflect the artist’s love of the animal world. Considering himself an artisan, Giacometti’s aim was to create beautiful and useful objects. Elsewhere in the sale of works from this interior, a large 19th century decalcomania glass sphere, measuring 15 in. (38 cm.) diameter, present a quirky and decorative lot with a hint of the Surreal (estimate: £1,000-1,500).