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PROPERTY FROM FARINGDON HOUSE, OXFORDSHIRE, LOTS 1-145
All objects tell a story, but, the contents of Faringdon House hint at one that is full of intrigue, eccentricity and even scandal. When the composer, painter, diplomat and writer, Lord Berners fell in love with Robert "Mad Boy" Heber-Percy, the pair turned their Oxfordshire home into an extraordinary aesthetes' paradise. During the 1930s, Stravinsky, Dali and Gertrude Stein came to stay, the Marchesa Casati arrived with her python in a glass tank and Cecil Beaton took photographs. All the Mitfords were friends and Nancy Mitford immortalised their lives in The Pursuit of Love. The house's visitors' books are filled with the names of the famous, the beautiful and the badly-behaved.
Berners wrote music for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Sadler's Wells, and Frederick Ashton, Constant Lambert and Margot Fonteyn gathered around the piano in Faringdon's green drawing room. The Mad Boy rode his horse bareback and naked around the estate and dyed the fantail doves every colour of the rainbow - a tradition that persists to this day.
There was always a dash of humour in life at Faringdon. Berners built an extraordinary folly tower up on the hill above the town as a 21st birthday present for the Mad Boy, and placed a sign saying "Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk". Masks and costumes were frequently donned, birds of paradise strolled in and out of the house, and the dogs were given pearl collars.
The paintings and furniture at Faringdon reflect this unusual heritage and are a diverse collection that include Lord Berners' own art, as well as pictures and antiques he inherited and much that was acquired during a lifetime spent travelling and working in France, Italy, Germany and Turkey.
If only the objects could speak.
Author of The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me