Great Scots: A Tale of Two Families

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Two remarkable collections will be making the journey from Scotland to New Bond Street to be offered at auction on 28 March. Each tells the story of an important family steeped in the history of Scotland: the Forbes of Pitsligo, tastemakers rooted in 18th-century Edinburgh and the economic prosperity of the Union; and the Earls and Marquesses of Lothian, an ancient and noble family entwined in the political and cultural fabric of Scotland and the United Kingdom. The wonderful objects and pictures from their extraordinary homes reflect the power and history of their Scottish legacy. Click ahead to see highlights from the sale.

Two Great Scottish Collections: Property from the Forbeses of Pitsligo and the Marquesses of Lothian
28 March | London

Great Scots: A Tale of Two Families

  • The drawing room at Fettercairn House, showing a number of lots acquired by the family in the early 20th century. Estimates ranging from £50–8,000.
    The sale includes a pair of gilt brass mounted Jasper columns , possible remnants from a great pietre dure cabinet, a whimsical Lion clock made in the late 19th century for the Chinese market and a finely cast pair of gilt and patinated bronze candelabra – part of a set faithfully following a design by Pierre-Phillipe Thomire.

  • The library, dating from 1898, at Fettercairn House, showing objects related to the heroic figure of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo.
    Alexander, 4th Lord of Pitsligo (1678-1762), is remembered as something of a local legend. Here his portrait by Alexis-Simon Belle (£15,000–20,000) sits between the swords he is said to have used at Culloden (£1,200–1,800). He took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 at the age of 37 and was subsequently forced to flee to the continent. Thirty years later, and suffering from asthma, he again took up arms in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, raising a regiment of over a hundred Aberdeenshire gentlemen and tenants. After defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 Forbes went into hiding around Pitsligo and concealed himself in a cave constructed beneath the arch of a bridge in the moors. He disguised himself as a beggar, and under this pretence even led search parties to his own hiding-place, feigning assistance.

  • A corner of the library at Fettercairn House, showing a group of superb carved and inlaid hardstone objects, acquired by the family on their travels in the 18th and 19th centuries. Estimates range from £1,200–20,000.
    The 6th, 7th and 8th Baronet Pitsligo all undertook extensive Grand Tours – each visiting Italy. The taste for precious hardstones and finely made objects ran through all three generations and can be seen in the collection at Fettercairn. The 6th Baronet recorded himself as being mesmerised by the lava stone pavements in Naples. However, he was a frugal man and eschewed purchases of hardstone on his Grand Tour, his grandson, the 8th Baronet, was less resistant to temptation and is recorded making purchases of hardstone objects from the Florentine dealer Buoninsegni in the 1830s.

  • A collection of precious objects discovered hidden in the Library at Fettercairn House including an extremely rare gold jewel dating from the 16th century (£30,000–50,000).
    The emergence onto the art market of this virtuoso enamelled gold pendant (bottom left) represents an important rediscovery for the history of Scottish Renaissance jewellery. The superb reverse panel, émail base-taille, finds a direct comparison in the celebrated Darnley or Lennox Jewel in the Royal Collection (inv. no. RCIN 28181). The use of the garnet in the jewel is also significant as it was believed to have medicinal and magical properties. The almandine garnet was thought to help with feelings of worry, panic, and fear, and to be beneficial to those involved in astronomy and astrology. The jewel was also said to protect the wearer from lightning strikes and plague.

  • Jewel-like important porcelain found in safes at Monteviot House, the Scottish home of the Marquess of Lothian. This group, unknown to academics and collectors, has estimates from £400–15,000.
    The discovery of the Lothian porcelain has been the highlight of this section of the sale. Including extraordinary French and German pieces, it is led by a very rare armorial barber’s bowl . Held to the neck of Carl Theodor Prince-Elector and Count of the Palatine (1724–1799) for his servants to give him a clean shave; the bowl celebrates his marriage to Augusta von Sulzbach (1721–1794) and the royal Wittelsbach succession. The Sèvres écuelle is a fine example of the late 18th century Raphaelesque decoration, the condition of the various glazes is demonstrative of its hidden past.

  • The ultimate Grand Tour souvenir – an exquisite late 16th-century Augsburg marquetry cabinet, which features an interior packed with casts of precious hardstone antiquities, £20,000–£30,000. (Pictured here at the foot of the Grand Staircase).
    The cabinet's marquetry is unusual in its depiction of actual rather than fantastical ruins, including the impressive reproduction of the Colosseum as it must have appeared to a 16th-century tourist. The fitted interior, from the second half of the 18th century - its drawers housing a collection of hundreds of gesso intaglios, faithful copies of Roman and Greek originals – represents the Grand Tourists’ taste for classical antiquities.

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