Treasures from last of high-society Mitford sisters under auction
22 Jan 2016 - 16:53
London: Treasures belonging to the last of the Mitford sisters, who fascinated and scandalised British society of the 1930s, are going under the hammer at a London auction in March.
Deborah Mitford, the dowager duchess of Devonshire and the youngest of the six sisters, died in 2014 aged 94.
Known as "Debo", she hobnobbed with the Kennedy family, was painted by Lucian Freud and once had tea with Adolf Hitler.
Sotheby's auction house is selling more than 450 lots of personal belongings, ranging from her jewellery to her Elvis Presley memorabilia collection.
"This auction paints a vivid picture of Deborah, duchess of Devonshire, featuring mementoes, objects and pictures that tell the story of her remarkable life," said David MacDonald, Sotheby's specialist in charge of the sale set for March 2.
The sale is estimated to realise £500,000 to £700,000 ($715,000 to $1 million, 660,000 to 925,000 euros), with individual lots ranging from £10 to £40,000.
The objects she surrounded herself with "were often moving, funny, or both, and usually had marvellous stories attached", MacDonald said.
"The items in this sale capture the very essence of this endlessly captivating woman."
The sale includes Regency chairs, Jacob Epstein sketches, a diamond heart-shaped brooch designed by her husband, Shetland pony harnesses, a novelty Presley telephone and a borer machine blade used to excavate the Channel Tunnel.
There are also books inscribed by the Kennedys, Madonna and Henry Kissinger.
On sale is one of only 50 pre-publication copies of "Brideshead Revisited" from 1944, inscribed by its author Evelyn Waugh, and estimated to fetch at least £15,000.
The dowager duchess's family said they were keeping precious items bequeathed to them, but were consigning the rest for auction.
"Given the kind of person she was, and the rich and varied life she led, there are more belongings than we can together accommodate," they said.
Deborah was one of the less flamboyant sisters, some of whom were known for their dramatic love lives and extreme political views.
Her passion was Chatsworth House, a 17th-century stately home in the English countryside that the duchess opened to the public.
Her chief hobby was keeping hens. Sotheby's described her as a "great poultry enthusiast". The sale also includes a pair of monogrammed travelling boxes for poultry and a chick-shaped powder compact.
Born Deborah Freeman-Mitford in 1920, she and her sisters were the "It Girls" of their day, and fascinated British society in the decade before World War II.
In 1941 she married Andrew Cavendish, who later became the 11th duke of Devonshire.
At 90 she published her memoirs, a record of high society balls and debutantes from a now-vanished age.