A n evocative backstory transforms beautiful objects into unique collector’s items, as demonstrated in the upcoming sale A Private View, which will showcase fascinating treasures from the country home of famed post-war collector, the late Stanley J. Seeger (1903-2011), and his partner Christopher Cone. The couple were together for 32 years during which they created an extraordinary collection.
The objects from their country home include works by Picasso, Gaugin and Munch alongside great Modern British artists like Nicholson, Lanyon and Moore. There is an array of wonderful things, all with stories to tell, everything from a picnic hamper belonging to Marilyn Monroe to a snuff box belonging to Lord Byron, with much also to raise a smile in between. The two men amassed pieces that brought them joy whether it was a collection of medieval silver spoons, 18th century bears or rare Tibetan chequered carpets.
The eclectic catalogue for this sale of more than 200 pieces, from 30 different collecting categories, represents the vast scope of their interests, spanning periods from the 5th century AD to the second half of the 20th century. One of the earliest lots on offer is two 13th century miniatures from the Bestiaire d’amour of Richard de Fournival.
Recollecting the fun that he and Seeger had in creating homes and furnishing them, Christopher Cone said: “Stanley and I lived wonderful dreams together. It’s nice to have the chance to have found and lived with these things and now to share them with anyone who cares to dig in and discover something special for themselves.”
Seeger famously sold his whole collection of 88 Picassos at one 1993 auction in New York and A Private View continues to demonstrate the couple's exceptional taste featuring a mix of items which includes works by Kandinsky, Fabergé, Frink and Cartier. A major highlight is a collage by Ben Nicholson, produced from the remains of a telegram sent to his second wife Barbara Hepworth, which has an estimate of £40,000-60,000.
But typically of Seeger and Cone, these works by high profile artists sit happily alongside curiosities like a Steinway “Victory” piano which was specially designed to be parachuted to American troops fighting on the front line of World War II and a rare dug-out canoe from Kerala.
David Macdonald, Sotheby’s specialist in charge of the sale, said: “This collection enthrals, amuses and ultimately celebrates the taste of two men who hold a unique place in the landscape of British collecting. They shared a love of music, literature, flora and fauna, British folk art and post-war art, and many of the items in the sale reflect their mutual passions, their sense of humour and their utter joy in things which became part of their everyday life. What comes through is the sheer pleasure in collecting. I defy anyone not to find one thing that they absolutely love.”