Few great stately homes have as dramatic a story as Carbisdale, the last castle to be built in Scotland, and a centre of intrigue and scandal. Constructed between 1906 and 1917, Carbisdale Castle is situated in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, overlooking the beautiful Kyle of Sutherland. It was built for the formidable “Duchess Blair,” the second wife of the third Duke of Sutherland, after a sensational legal battle with her husband’s family, who refused to accept her claim to their inheritance. The castle was named “The Castle of Spite” since it was deliberately built to overlook the Sutherland estate, providing the family with a permanent and bitter reminder of her presence. Carbisdale’s defining feature is a tower with clocks on only three sides, the blank wall looking onto lands owned by the Sutherland family, to whom it was said the Duchess refused to give the time of day.


On 20th May, Sotheby’s has the great privilege of offering the highly important sculpture collection from Carbisdale Castle. The collection comprises an extraordinary narrative sweep which charts the development of European sculpture in the 19th century, from the elegant Neoclassicism of the early part of the century – exemplified by works such as the Venus Italica after Antonio Canova – to the fantastical Romanticism of the Belle Époque years – seen in marbles such as Pasquale Romanelli’s Andromeda and the Sea Monster. Appropriately, two of the most beautiful sculptures are the Venus by Lawrence Macdonald and the Nymph at the Stream by David Watson Stevenson, two leading Scottish sculptors. Wider British sculpture is represented by Henry Weekes’ The Young Naturalist, with its girl with billowing hair and its rocky base with intricately carved seaweeds. Carbisdale is the quintessential Victorian collection, a point underlined by the presence of two charming satyrs by Emil Wolff, one of Queen Victoria’s favourite artists. Accompanying the collection is a wonderful array of pictures, most of which are quality 19th century copies of Old Masters or original British landscapes, which hints at the Duchess Blair’s desire to recreate the splendour that she had lost with the death of her husband, whose own Bridgewater Collection, was one of the greatest in Europe.