Dreweatts to sell a slice of England

Dreweatts will be auctioning the Collection of the late John Fane at Donnington Priory, Newbury on Thursday 26 November 2009. Items for sale from this magnificent country house collection can be previewed from Saturday 21 November.

John Coppleston Luther Fane, a descendant of the 8th Earl of Westmorland, was very proud of his family history. In 1954 he inherited the 250 year old family seat at Wormsley Park in Oxfordshire, which was later sold to the philanthropist Sir Paul Getty II.

John Fane was the epitome of the 'English country gentleman'; was an excellent shot and breeder of race horses (he owned Sky Diver, winner of the Goodwood Gold Cup two years in succession).

His life-long passion for all aspects of rural life is reflected in the many rare books, early prints, collectibles, manuscripts and paintings now being offered by Dreweatts.

The Fane Collection epitomises 18th & 19th century English 'country house taste' and the unifying thread is Wormsley Park itself.

Probably one of the first pictures to be commissioned for Wormsley, is the portrait by Thomas Gainsborough of the plump and self-possessed Henry Fane wearing a fashionable long bob wig and gold embroidered coat.

Henry Fane by Thomas Gainsborough
Henry Fane by Thomas Gainsborough

Expected to fetch up to £30,000 it was painted in the early 1760s.

One of the many other noteworthy lots is the white marble bust of the dramatist and poet laureate Nicholas Rowe, whose daughter Charlotte was married to Henry Fane.

Portrayed with a laurel wreath on his head and loose drapery over his shoulders, this handsome sculpture possibly pre-dates the similar 1742 John Michael Rysbrack example in Westminster Abbey, and carries an estimate of £20,000-30,000.

Another important lot is a George Wickes crested silver oval tureen and lid, commissioned by the Fane family on Charlotte Rowe's marriage to Henry Fane.

Thanks to the Garrard ledgers in the Victoria & Albert Museum's Archives Library, we know that this wonderful example of rococo silver dated 1737, was commissioned for £55.0s 0d; complete with cartouches, lion-masks, claw-and-ball capped feet, shell and foliate decoration with handles cast as the Fane crest (a bull's head in a crown).

It is expected to realise £30,000-50,000.

All good country house collections are added to over the centuries and this is no exception.

A George II walnut side-table circa 1740 was bought in Maidenhead in 1966 for £195 and today is estimated at £15,000-20,000, typifying the investment merits of high-end collectible pieces.

It is carved with acanthus leaves, a large central shell, cabriole legs each decorated with a 'green man' mask and hairy pawand-ball feet.

Dreweatts are taking the innovative step of giving London-based bibliophiles the facility to participate live in the sale, by synchronised video link, from Bloomsbury Auctions' Mayfair premises at 24 Maddox Street, London W1.

Highlights of the Fane Collection will be on view at Donnington Priory from Saturday 21 November.

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