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PROPERTY OF A LADY
Post Lot Text
The Hon. Mrs. Nellie Ionides (1883-1962)
Nellie Ionides was born in 1883, the eldest daughter of Sir Marcus Samuel, later the first Viscount Bearsted, who was Lord Mayor of London from 1902-3. Her paternal grandfather had been very successful in international trade, especially trade with Japan, and the family firm are believed to have exported the first mechanical looms from Britain to Japan. The family also established Shell Transport (later known as Shell Oil) and their continuing fortunes were based on oil and trade. Mrs. Ionides' father was knighted in 1897 for services to the Royal Navy, becoming a Baron in 1921 and a Viscount in 1925. He was a generous philanthropist, working mainly through City Charities, and contributed substantially to work on historic churches.
Nellie Samuel's first husband was Walter Levy, whose bravery in the First World War earned him the DSO, but whose early death was attributed to the effects of trench warfare. Later Nellie Levy married Basil Ionides, a member of the Greek shipping family, who, like her own, were great patrons and philanthropists. Basil Ionides is particularly remembered as the pioneering Art Deco designer of The Savoy Theatre and Claridges. Nellie and Basil Ionides shared a love of the arts and were both collectors, bequeathing items to various museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mrs. Ionides had four children - three girls and a boy. The youngest daughter Vivien, born in 1907, married the novelist Robert Henriques. The bronze censer, porcelain vases and horse (lots 82, 135 and 160) offered in this sale are from the estate of Mrs. Vivien Henriques, having come to her from her mother, Mrs. Ionides. The second daughter Winifred, born in 1905, married Commander Richard Jessel, DSO, DSC, OBE Royal Navy and the cistern and deer in this sale (lots 161 and 162) went by descent to their second son Toby Jessel.
Mr. and Mrs. Basil Ionides lived from 1931 at Buxted Park, an impressive Georgian mansion near Uckfield in Sussex, which Mr. Ionides' designs transformed from the state in which they found it. Mrs. Ionides, however, retained a great attachment for their rural retreat, Riverside House, in Twickenham, which they acquired in 1926, and where they entertained noted politicians and as well as members of the Royal Family. Mrs. Ionides first met Queen Mary, wife of George V, in 1924, and with a love of art and collecting in common the two remained friends for almost 30 years. Mrs. Ionides fondness for Twickeham extended to her collection and her benefactions.
Her grandson, Toby Jessel, has said of her life story:
'The story is a good one to tell. It's of a woman who loved her home at Twickenham; cared deeply about the environment; had a passionate enthusiasm for collecting, and brilliant skills, flair and discernment in doing so; had the resources to do so and built up a remarkable collection of topographical paintings and prints - Thamesside pictures of Twickenham and Richmond; and left on her death arrangements so that people in Twickenham could enjoy a permanent display in the historic building of Orleans House, which she bought in 1926 to save from demolition'
Nellie Ionides' collecting took many directions. In addition to the art related to the Twickenham area, she acquired an exceptionally fine collection of landscapes, a 'dazzling array' of objects d'art, including Meissen figures and Battersea enamels, musical instruments, clocks, books, English 18th century and Regency furniture, 18th century conversation pieces, brass jelly moulds, 19th century genre scenes of dogs, and, of course, Chinese porcelain.
The collection of paintings of dogs reflected her love of animals, especially dogs, and she bred Standard Poodles at Buxted House. Her Vulcan Champagne kennel achieved international renown, each poodle being named after a champagne, including Cliquot, who appears in a famous photograph with Mrs. Ionides. She served on the Ladies' Branch of the Kennel Club for some years, and regularly showed her dogs at Crufts. Slightly more idiosyncratically, she had their clippings collected and woven into cloth, a roll of which was presented to each of her grandsons.
Nellie Ionides had a special admiration for Chinese porcelain, in particular the blue and white and famille verte wares of the Kangxi period (1662-1722), and has been credited with having an almost intuitive gift for discovering museum quality pieces in the Brighton Lanes, the Tunbridge Wells Pantiles, and the antique shops and auction houses of Sussex, Surrey and London.
Her grandson Toby Jessel has noted:
'She had a great interest in Chinese porcelain. Maybe the family's links with the Far East triggered her interest. She was fascinated with the beauty of Chinese porcelain, with its bright colours, and she became a great expert.'
'She developed an eagle eye for what was good and what was fine and what was authentic - and for what was bogus...'
One of her major bequests to the Victoria and Albert Museum was of Chinese porcelain, some of which was loaned by the V&A Trustees to the recent exhibition celebrating forty years of her Twickenham bequest at the Orleans House Gallery.
Mrs. Ionides granddaughter, Lady Panufnik has observed:
'My grandmother, Nellie Ionides, was an impassioned collector. She loved each item that she found, had restored and brought home. At the end of her life, when she realised that almost everything would have to be sold to cover her death duties, she used to say she only wished she could be present at the sales to see who bought her favourite treasures, and indeed, to see how much they all went for under the auctioneer's hammer.'
The information in this panel has been extracted from material prepared for the exhibition Nellie Ionides (1883-1962): Collector, which was held at the Orleans House Gallery, Riverside Twickenham from 30 November 2002 to 9 February 2003. We are grateful to Mark De Novellis, Curator: Exhibitions/Collections, Orleans House Gallery, for giving us access to this material and allowing us to reproduce some of the information.