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THE PROPERTY OF THE LATE MRS E.J. BLACKWELL, SOLD BY ORDER OF THE EXECUTORS AND THE PROPERTY OF THE TRUSTEES OF THE T.A.W. BLACKWELL TRUST
(LOTS 41 - 123)
This dazzling collection stands as testament to the late Mrs. Elizabeth Blackwell's remarkable taste and energy after the vicissitudes of war. In 1946, Betty Blackwell, a young and attractive war widow, was compelled to give up her home in Hertfordshire by the London County Council, which needed the land on which to build houses for London's homeless. Undaunted, she found Cadenham Manor in Wiltshire, a beautiful Elizabethan stone manor house whose restoration to its former glory was one of Mrs Blackwell's abiding joys. The house and garden at Cadenham were her life's work. For 55 years, bubbling with energy and captivating all who met her with her flair and imagination, she filled Cadenham with fine furniture, works of art, trees, follies, parterres, clipped hedges, plants and shrubs. She settled only for the highest standards in everything she did and she enjoyed nothing more than working with experts on her projects. Draughtsmen, carpenters, stonemasons, gardeners were all inspired by her vision and determination.
Although confident in her own judgement to buy at auction, in general Mrs. Blackwell preferred to follow the advice of a select group of the most prestigious London dealers, including Morton Lee and Frank Partridge. It was from the latter that she acquired several pieces formerly in the collection of Lionel de Rothschild at Exbury, such as the magnificent Louis XV ormolu-mounted marquetry commode attributed to Adrien Delorme and the superb pair of Louis XVI Sèvres pot pourri vases with ormolu mounts by one of the greatest bronziers of the period, Pierre-Philippe Thomire. Another spectacular piece in her collection is a monumental Louis XVI clock which Christie's researches have revealed was almost certainly commissioned by the Prince de Salm for his Paris hôtel, now the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur.
Mrs Blackwell loved France and everything French, making frequent visits to Paris and the Châteaux of the Loire, and reading widely to develop her understanding of the historical content of the collection. This particular concentration on French furniture and decorative arts set her apart from other English collectors of the time, who were more likely to be buying Georgian mahogany and walnut furniture. She consciously created richly decorated French-inspired interiors with framed Aubusson tapestries in the living room, and a Louis XVI banquette de billiard for that most quintessentially English of rooms, the billiards room. The richness of these interiors must have dazzled visitors to this quiet spot in the English countryside. The collection is particularly rich in ormolu-mounted objets d'art, ranging from a monumental pair of Louis XVI granite vases, which greeted you as you entered the door, to a pair of Louis XV Meissen pug dogs of unusually large size, which were acquired by Mrs Blackwell at the end of her 'collecting' life in 1984. The impressive scope of her collecting is amply demonstrated by the tasteful array of Chinese and European ceramics (including two rare Sèvres biscuit figure groups) which perfectly complemented the superb furniture. The English furniture at Cadenham acted as an effective counterpoint to the French furniture - a pair of Japanese lacquer cabinets on Queen Anne giltwood stands made a particularly memorable effect in the entrance hall. Although paintings were never her primary focus, she did acquire a set of fascinating gouache studies of birds Agricola as well as a charming selection of French prints and drawings, all of which are included in the sale.
With the passing of Mrs. Blackwell, the family felt the time had come to offer to a new generation of collectors the fruits of her remarkable enthusiasm and taste.