Flemish School, late 16th century
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF NIEL RIMINGTON (1928-2009) OF FONTHILL OLD ABBEY ESTATE, WILTSHIRE (lots 25, 36 & 47) Lots 25 and 47 formed part of William Beckford's collection at Fonthill, Wiltshire. There have been no less than five magnificent palaces built at Fonthill since 1745, perhaps none more remarkable than Fonthill Abbey, designed by James Wyatt (d. 1813) and built by the aesthete and connoisseur William Beckford. Loosely based on Gothic monastic architecture, with cruciform nave and central tower surmounting an octagonal chapel, Beckford's Fonthill Abbey was described as the 'most prodigious romantic folly in England'. In 1825, the great Gothic tower collapsed and destroyed the west arm of the house. It was not rebuilt - and only the north end remains along with fragments of the sanctuary and a tower. From 1856-59 a new Fonthill Abbey was built 500 metres South East of the old abbey for Richard, 2nd Marquess of Westminster. Built in Scottish baronial style, the new Fonthill was subsequently inherited by his eighth child, Lady Octavia Shaw-Stewart (née Grovesnor), who is known to have acquired some of Beckford's original Fonthill works of art in the celebrated Hamilton Palace sale at Christie's in 1882. The works of art offered here, as well as lot 36, have passed by direct descent from the Victorian Fonthill.
Flemish School, late 16th century

Portrait of a Knight of the Golden Fleece, half-length, in armour, holding a baton of command

Flemish School, late 16th century
Portrait of a Knight of the Golden Fleece, half-length, in armour, holding a baton of command
oil on canvas
28 7/8 x 20 3/8 in. (73.4 x 51.6 cm.)
(Possibly) Mr. [J or T] Norman, Plymouth Dock, Plymouth, Devon; Hickman, London, 16 May 1818, lot 26a, as 'Sancheo Coello', 'Portrait of the Duke d'Alba' (possibly to the following)
(Possibly) Anonymous sale [with Urbino Pizzetta, Foley Place, London]; Christie's, London, 26 May 1820, lot 89, as 'Sanchez Coello', 'Portrait of the Duke of Alva' (unsold; possibly subsequently acquired privately by the following).
William Beckford (1760-1844), Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire; Christie's, Fonthill Abbey, 16 October 1822 [=7th day], lot 31, as 'Coello', 'Portrait of the Duke of Alva in a Cuirass, and with a Mareschal's Baton--very highly finished' (the entire contents of the sale were sold by private treaty prior to the auction to)
Anonymous sale [John Farquhar (1751-1826), merchant and entrepreneur, Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire]; Phillips, Fonthill Abbey, 10 October 1823 [=24th day], lot 26, as 'Coello' [amended to 'Merevelt' in one copy of the catalogue], 'Portrait of the Duke of Alva in a Cuirass, and with a Mareschal's Baton,--highly finished--In No. 73 [the Eastern Yellow Drawing Room]' (30 gns. to John Swabey on behalf of the following)
William Beckford, Lansdown Tower, Bath, in the back drawing room, and by descent to
William Douglas-Hamilton, 12th Duke of Hamilton, 9th Duke of Brandon, 2nd Duke of Châtelherault (1845-1895), Hamilton Palace, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire; Christie's, London, 8 July 1882 [=10th day], lot 1141, as 'Coello', 'Portrait of the Duke of Alva, in white dress and ruff, and partly-gilt breastplate, holding a baton in his right hand' (400 gns. to Agnew on behalf of Shaw-Stewart).
Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, 7th Bt. of Greenock and Blackhall (1826-1903), and by descent at Fonthill, through his third son, Walter Richard Shaw-Stewart (1861-1934), and the latter's second daughter, Irene Beatrice, wife of Brigadier Reginald Gordon Ward Rimington.
New York, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, and London, The Dulwich Picture Gallery, William Beckford, 1760-1844: An Eye for the Magnificent, 18 October 2001-14 April 2002, no. 130 (note by J. Chapel).
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Clemency Henty
Clemency Henty

Lot Essay

This portrait of a military leader, in a richly decorated cuirass and firmly grasping a baton of command, has traditionally been identified as a portrait of the Duke of Alba, and attributed to Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531/2-1588). Already in 1823 the annotator of a copy of the Phillips Fonthill sale catalogue saw in it the hand of a Netherlandish artist, proposing an attribution to Michiel van Mierevelt, who indeed painted foreign dignitaries as well as Dutch sitters. More recently, Margaret Scott has proposed an attribution to Sánchez Coello's student Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, 'whose style is similar and who painted in the Flemish tradition' (see J. Chapel in William Beckford, op. cit., pp. 392 and 426n.11). The armour worn by the sitter is North Italian in style and is of the same period as the portrait itself. We are grateful to Jan van Helmont for noting that the B-shaped symbol which appears several times on the armour is a briquet, one of the emblems of the Order of the Golden Fleece, juxtoposed here with the saltire cross of Saint Andrew, patron saint of the order.

Beckford probably acquired the picture in 1820 from the London-based Italian dealer Urbino Pizzetta, from whom he had also purchased the Madonna and Child by Perugino now in the National Gallery, London. However, it is also known that Beckford had met the 13th duquesa de Alba, Goya's great patroness, in 1787, and it has been suggested that alternatively he may have acquired this picture directly from the Alba collection, as an Alba provenance may explain the subsequent misidentification of the sitter; or indeed that the portrait may have been amongst the works sold by the heirs of the 13th duquesa in 1808 and brought to England by the dealer William Buchanan in 1813 (Chapel, loc. cit., pp. 392 and 426). In this case, the work would stand as an eloquent monument to the historic development of a taste for Spanish art in Regency Britain, and the migration of Spanish masterpieces such as Velázquez's Rokeby Venus and Portrait of Philip IV (both London, National Gallery, the latter possibly also owned by Beckford) to British collections.

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