T he 59-metre superyacht La Gaviota IV was bought in 1931 by the Chilean millionaire Arturo López-Willshaw, who moved to France during the inter-war period and became an important figure in Paris. At the time, he was associated with the Embassy of Chile, as well as moving in high society circles.
Rich in its luxury aesthetic, the López-Willshaw’s collection brought together an abundance of beautiful objects, including a famous collection of goldsmithery partially dispersed by Sotheby's Monaco, in 1992. Many of the pieces were also donated to the castles of Versailles and Rambouillet.
López-Willshaw divided his time between the hotel Lambert on the island Saint-Louis, where lived with his companion Alexis de Redé, the Rodocanachi hotel in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where he moved in 1928 and his yacht La Gaviota IV, designed by the interior designer Georges Geffroy during the 1950s. Each residence was populated with pieces from the vast collection, and retained their own very distinct personalities.
Geffroy was described by couturier Hubert de Givenchy as a “purist” and “An eighteenth-century gentleman, a figure from another era, one of a breed of decorators that is extinct today,” He was well-known for never accepting more than one job at a time — that way he could devote himself entirely to each assignment.
Moreover, he guided his clients in buying art and assisting them with the polite authority of a connoisseur. In the appraisal of antique furniture, he had an especially unerring eye, demonstrated in the calibre of pieces offered for sale from La Gaviota IV.
The designer was a prominent society figure in Post-war Paris, and his clients were invariably personal friends. In the afternoons he could be seen making the rounds of the dealers with millionaire socialite Arturo Lopez-Willshaw, and later he would escort Gloria Guinness through the galleries.
The boat was eventually bought by Robert de Balkany and renamed Marala. De Balkany purchased it as he was fascinated by the boat and the interior decoration, so he decided to keep the décor intact to preserve the atmosphere and charm of the vessel.