This lot is offered without reserve.
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JAMES STILLMAN DAVISON (LOTS 667-794)
I've known some very swell people in my day, but, except for my friend Jimmy Davison, who is auctioning off his family heirlooms and moving to Paris, I've never heard anyone say, "Lord Duveen found several of the English pieces for my great grandfather in 1912," with no sense of show-off whatsoever. Old fashion refinement oozes from Jimmy Davison. For those unacquainted with the fascinating Lord Duveen, about whom books have been written, he was responsible for pillaging the great houses, chateaus, and castles of impoverished aristocrats in England, France, and Italy of their furniture and art to help build the collections of such socially historic Americans as Isabella Stewart Gardner of Boston and Vanderbilt after Vanderbilt in New York and Newport, among others of comparable financial and social repute.
Jimmy's great grandfather, Henry T. Davison, built the National City Bank into the biggest bank in America. His collection of art and furniture was primarily put together by Mary Cassatt, the Impressionist painter living in Paris, who was a close friend of Jimmy's great grandmother. Their New York house at 9 East 72nd Street was considered to be one of the finest houses in the city. It eventually became a school and is currently being reconverted back into a single family residence.
Jimmy Davison's grandfather, TK Davison, was the partner of J.P. Morgan at United States Trust. Lord Duveen acquired Romney's portrait of Lady Hamilton for Morgan, who decided it didn't fit in with his collection of paintings, so Jimmy's grandfather bought it instead. "Ninety per-cent of the English furniture were family pieces," he said to me recently, when discussing departing with the beautiful possessions that he has lived with all of his life. I once had to let go of every possession I owned and loved, so I understood the feeling he was experiencing. The furniture handsomely graced both his New York apartment and his lovely house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I used to think, looking at his rooms, "This is class."
When people talk of "old New York," the world that Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about, the Davison family might very well have been characters, so much a part of the social tradition were they. The family history is extremely colorful, all the way back to a rumored liaison between one of the great grandmothers and Edward VII. More importantly, the family has been prominent in banking circles in New York throughout the 20th Century. Jimmy's mother was a Stillman, whose family founded the National City Bank. "The Davisons had mountains of money and so did the Stillmans," one of Jimmy's greatest friends told me. Two branches of the Davison family, first cousins, lived on great estates on the North Shore of Long Island. Jimmy grew up at Appledore, which has now been turned into a country club. Peacock Point, five miles from Appledore, is lived in by his cousins, although part of the vast house was torn down during World War II. I am sad to see my old friend James Stillman Davison move away to a new life in Paris, but I admire his decision. I plan to be at Christie's on October 9th to get a last look of his collection of furniture and art. Furthermore, in my new novel, A Solo Act, I've based a character on Jimmy Davison named Bobby Vermont, a member of an old guard family to whom the narrator, who lives a troubled life, confides with perfect trust.