‘Theirs was a glorious phase in the history of a distinguished house’: the Collection of Lord and Lady Weinstock
Lord Weinstock was a titan of British industry who advised four prime ministers. The collection that he and his wife Netta assembled at their Wiltshire estate, Bowden Park, ranges from Old Master paintings to European furniture and dazzling jewellery
Lord and Lady Weinstock were influential figures in British business, social and cultural life in the second half of the 20th century. Over the course of their long marriage, they assembled a superb collection of fine and decorative arts from all over the world.
‘Arnold and Netta enjoyed collecting, and the homes they created were the background for a multi-faceted life, filled with their family and friends from across all spheres of business, politics and the arts,’ says Charles Cator, deputy chairman of Christie’s.
Many of their treasures graced Bowden Park, their classical family home in Wiltshire, designed and built in 1796 by James Wyatt, the most fashionable country-house architect of his day.
‘Typically perfectionist in their approach, the Weinstocks assembled furniture and pictures appropriate for the elegantly restrained rooms,’ adds Cator.
On 22 November 2022, the collection of Lord and Lady Weinstock will be offered for sale at Christie’s. It features Old Master paintings, English and European furniture and works of art including silver, gold boxes and porcelain, Chinese works of art, and important pieces from Lady Weinstock’s jewellery collection.
Jean-François de Troy’s The Reading Party (1735) will be offered on 8 December in the Old Masters Evening Sale in London.
‘It is such an honour for Christie’s to be entrusted with the sale of the Weinstock collection,’ says Cator. ‘It includes the very finest examples across a remarkable range of genres.’
Arnold Weinstock was Britain’s premier industrialist of the post-war era. Through his vision, energy and astute business acumen, he transformed the General Electric Company (GEC) into one of the nation’s greatest and most successful industrial enterprises, with products ranging from household appliances to radar systems.
Born in Stoke Newington in London in 1924, he would go on to graduate from the London School of Economics before serving in the production and priority department of the Admiralty at Bath.
In 1949 he married Netta Sobell, the youngest daughter of the entrepreneur Sir Michael Sobell, who had made his fortune manufacturing radios. In 1954 Weinstock joined Sobell’s business, Radio and Allied Industries, and quickly made his mark.
The company went public in 1958 and in 1961 merged with the much bigger General Electric Company, then in relative decline. In 1967 Weinstock acquired Associated Electrical Industries and English Electric a year later.
Weinstock was knighted in 1970 and made a life peer in 1980. He retired from GEC in 1996 after more than three decades as managing director.
Lord Weinstock’s achievements at GEC earned him the respect of politicians and academics alike. He was a trusted counsellor to four prime ministers — from Harold Wilson to Margaret Thatcher — and was awarded an honorary fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge. This was followed by honorary degrees from many universities, including Bath, Reading, Ulster, Leeds and Loughborough.
Lord Weinstock’s interests and influence, however, extended far beyond industry into the worlds of politics, art, music, philanthropy and racing.
He was introduced to the latter by his father-in-law, and together they acquired Ballymacoll Stud in County Meath, Ireland, in 1960. Before long, Weinstock was one of the most successful English racehorse owners of his time, winning the 200th Derby in 1979 with Troy.
His passion for the sport is reflected in the collection of racing trophies and pictures coming to auction in November. Among these is John Frederick Herring’s The Start of the Goodwood Gold Cup, 1831 (above), which shows Lord Chesterfield’s Priam, King William IV’s Fleur de Lis and Mr Stonehewer’s Variation, all at the start of the race.
It had pride of place above the chimneypiece in Lord Weinstock’s study at Bowden Park, alongside his many racing trophies and commissioned pictures of his own horses, many by Susan Crawford.
As for fine and decorative arts, the Weinstocks began collecting in the 1960s following the purchase of their first apartment in London’s Grosvenor Square in the mid-1960s and Bowden Park in 1967.
‘They acquired works from leading dealers as well as the most interesting collection sales of the day,’ says Cator. ‘It was a great honour to have been able to play a part in their journey in the 1980s and 1990s.’
Leading the collection is de Troy’s The Reading Party (1735), below, one of the artist’s finest and most seductive tableaux de mode. These small-scale genre scenes, which were painted between 1724 and 1735, depict the rarefied world of the Parisian elite. Some are set in lavish domestic interiors; others, such as The Reading Party, take place outdoors. Only 11 of de Troy’s tableaux de mode are known to exist, five of which are in museums.
It isn’t known what prompted de Troy — who was in his forties in the 1720s, with a well-established career as a history painter — to invent his new genre. But it could be that he was inspired by Antoine Watteau, master of the fête galante, whose premature death had left an opening in the growing market for elegant scenes of flirtation and romance.
Unlike Watteau’s whimsical scenes, however, de Troy’s tableaux de mode only feature contemporary settings, manners and fashions.
As for English furniture, highlights include a pair of George III pier tables (above) from around 1770, attributed to William Ince and John Mayhew, which were acquired from Lady Stern’s collection in 1967. They were probably commissioned by one of the partnership’s most important clients, the 3rd Earl of Kerry, for Prior Park, his country house on the outskirts of Bath. In the drawing room at Bowden Park, these were balanced by a finely executed pair of George III demi-lune commodes in Ince and Mayhew’s established style of the 1770s.
Also noteworthy is a splendid pair of George III marquetry, giltwood and painted demi-lune console tables, probably supplied by Ince and Mayhew to the 3rd Duke of Dorset around 1777 for a drawing room in his Grosvenor Square house, which he acquired and rebuilt in the fashionable antique style in 1776-77.
Notable jewels in the sale include a 19th-century diamond tiara with a central rose flowerhead, purchased from S.J. Phillips (above), a cultured pearl and diamond choker necklace, and a collection of highly desirable pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week