The ballroom created for Drue Heinz’s London mews house by interior designer Lorenzo ‘Renzo’ Mongiardino, photographed in 2019. Including a pair of William & Mary-style silvered

Antenna: Inside Drue Heinz’s townhouses

Our columnist Meredith Etherington-Smith picks out highlights from the New York and London homes of the passionate collector and leading figure in literary circles

Drue Heinz was married to H.J. ‘Jack’ Heinz II, the CEO of the H.J. Heinz Company, from 1953 until his death in 1987. As well as being a passionate collector of art, silver and furniture, and a leading advocate for writers, Drue Heinz assisted her husband in his many civic philanthropic projects throughout America.

Drue Heinz in a photograph taken by her husband, H.J. ‘Jack’ Heinz II. Courtesy of the Heinz family

Drue Heinz in a photograph taken by her husband, H.J. ‘Jack’ Heinz II. Courtesy of the Heinz family

She was a board member of the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, The Royal Academy in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she donated a gallery to be named in memory of her husband.

Drue Heinz at home

Drue and Jack Heinz lived between two elegant townhouses. The neo-colonial house with views of the East River in New York had originally belonged to Mrs. William Vanderbilt. It was decorated for the Heinzes in 1976 by Italian architect and interior designer Lorenzo ‘Renzo’ Mongiardino.

The John Fowler-designed drawing room, in London, photographed in 2019. Including a George II giltwood pier mirror, attributed to Matthias Lock, circa 1750-60. 109 x 51½  in (277 x 131  cm). Estimate £150,000-250,000. A Victorian giltwood low stool, second half 19th century. 11¼  in (29  cm) high; 33½  in (85  cm) wide; 22¾  in (58  cm) deep. Estimate

The John Fowler-designed drawing room, in London, photographed in 2019. Including a George II giltwood pier mirror, attributed to Matthias Lock, circa 1750-60. 109 x 51½ in (277 x 131 cm). Estimate: £150,000-250,000. A Victorian giltwood low stool, second half 19th century. 11¼ in (29 cm) high; 33½ in (85 cm) wide; 22¾ in (58 cm) deep. Estimate: £800-1,200. A European kilim carpet, Late 19th/early 20th century. 12 ft 4 in x 12 ft 5 in (379 x 382 cm). Estimate: £600-1,000. One of a set of three Louis XV grey-painted beech fauteuils, third quarter 18th century. The chairs: 36 in (91.5 cm) high; 25 in (63.5 cm) wide; 24 in (61 cm) deep. Estimate: £2,000-3,000. All offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

The London mews house was bought by the Heinzes from the former actress Joan Dennis and her husband Captain Jack Dennis. The interior of the house had been laid out by John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler, the noted decorator, in the early 1950s. So enamoured were the Heinzes with Fowler’s decoration and furnishings that they bought the house together with its contents; it was virtually untouched as Fowler conceived it.

Among the highlight pieces from The Collection of Drue Heinz: Townhouses in London and New York, offered at Christie’s London on 4 June, is a George II giltwood pier mirror (above), dating to around 1750, which was previously the property of William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme. With its carved naturalistic foliage, fantastical chinoiserie birds, and central mask depicting the Greek sea nymph Amphitrite, this mirror exemplifies the zenith of the English Rococo, a decorative style that reached peak popularity in Britain in the 1750s. Drue and Jack Heinz acquired the mirror in the 1960s.

A pair of regency Blue John vases, Derbyshire, circa 1815-20, possibly by William Shore. 15¼  in (38.7  cm) high, overall; 7 in (19  cm) wide; 6  in (15.2  cm) deep. Estimate £60,000-100,000. Offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

A pair of regency Blue John vases, Derbyshire, circa 1815-20, possibly by William Shore. 15¼ in (38.7 cm) high, overall; 7 in (19 cm) wide; 6 in (15.2 cm) deep. Estimate: £60,000-100,000. Offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

The early 19th-century ‘Grecian urn’ vases pictured above, possibly by William Shore, are carved from rare Blue John stone found in Derbyshire in the north of England. They are possibly one of the largest pairs to remain together.

Among the other impressive pieces made from this unusual semi-precious mineral are a table top and three additional vases, including a William IV Blue John vase,  pictured above, mounted on a later black marble plinth.

In the 1980s the London townhouse underwent a second phase of development: a magnificent ballroom designed by Mongiardino was created on the opposite side of the courtyard from the mews house in what had been a car showroom.

Drue and Jack Heinz had originally been introduced to Mongiardino by their friends Marella and Gianni Agnelli, the Fiat tycoon. For the Heinzes, Mongiardino created an opulent and theatrical ballroom, perhaps one of the last private ballrooms to be created in London. The walls still bear the imagined vistas inspired by the Villa Falconieri in Rome.

A Maltese specimen marble table-top on an associated giltwood base. 33  in (84  cm) high; 49½  in (126  cm) wide; 36  in (91.5  cm) deep. Estimate £12,000-18,000. A French fruitwood or olivewood model of a seated unicorn, Late 18th century. 22½  in (57  cm) high. Estimate £1,500-2,500. Both offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York

A Maltese specimen marble table-top on an associated giltwood base. 33 in (84 cm) high; 49½ in (126 cm) wide; 36 in (91.5 cm) deep. Estimate: £12,000-18,000. A French fruitwood or olivewood model of a seated unicorn, Late 18th century. 22½ in (57 cm) high. Estimate: £1,500-2,500. Both offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

Their London mews was home to a beautiful 1944 drawing by Henri Matisse, Tete de Jeune Fille; a collection of personally inscribed drawings and watercolours by David Hockney; and an elaborate painting by Bernard Buffet of the Tower of London, La tour de Londres (1960), painted at the height of his powers.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Tête de jeune fille, June 1944. Charcoal on paper. 15⅞ x 10 ¼  in (40.3 x 26.3  cm). Estimate £50,000-80,000. Offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Tête de jeune fille, June 1944. Charcoal on paper. 15⅞ x 10 ¼ in (40.3 x 26.3 cm). Estimate: £50,000-80,000. Offered in The Collection of Drue Heinz Townhouses in London and New York with interiors by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino on 4 June 2019 at Christie’s in London

The Collection of Drue Heinz: Townhouses in London and New York will be sold in London on 4 June in a dedicated collection sale. The proceeds will go to support Drue Heinz’s Hawthornden Literary Retreat as well as various other charitable projects close to her heart.