On 28 April 2010, Sotheby’s London will offer for sale a collection of English furniture which – in its exceptional quality and aesthetic appeal – defines the connoisseurship and unfailing eye of two of the greatest protagonists ever to have worked in the furniture business: Francis Egerton and Peter Maitland. Together, the 150 lots to be offered – each one exactingly chosen for its artistic merit – are expected to realise a sum in excess of £700,000.
As Chairman of Mallett from 1955 to 1983, Francis Egerton was the defining force behind the now widely celebrated “Mallett style” – a style that has informed many of the greatest collections of our time. His insistence on the highest quality was legendary, and that, combined with his own unerring sense of style, made for a compelling combination. Upon his death, Egerton’s business mantle passed to his friend and colleague Peter Maitland who, possessed with a similarly keen aesthetic sense, continued faultlessly to honour the traditions and standards of his predecessor. In addition to the leading role at Mallett, Maitland also inherited from Egerton something of even greater importance: he became custodian of Egerton’s private collection of furniture and artefacts – a superlative collection in which the essence of Egerton’s celebrated aesthetic is fully captured. It is this collection – rich in shining examples of 18th-century craftsmanship – that, following the death of Maitland in October last year, will now come to sale.
As custodian of Egerton’s bequest, Maitland not only preserved and cared for each of the pieces he inherited, he also provided for them a perfect home. With its perfect proportions and light-filled, airy spaces, Maitland’s magnificent house in Witchampton, Dorset, provided an ideal foil for the exquisitely carved gilt pier glasses, sumptuous walnut furniture, Chinese porcelain and other artects that make up this exceptional collection.
• An important Queen Anne giltwood pier mirror, commissioned circa 1705 by Sir Cecil Bishopp for Parham Park, in Sussex.
With its distinctive strapwork and cresting, both the carving and the form of this magnificent piece relate closely to a group of pieces made by the celebrated Pelletier family. Trained in Paris, but based in London from the early 1680s onwards, this exceptionally talented family of Hugenot carvers and gilders supplied furniture to illustrious patrons such as the 1st Duke of Montagu (Charles II’s Ambassador to the Court of Louis XIV at Versailles) and William III (for his apartments at Hampton Court Palace).
• A George I figured walnut side table, c. 1725, est: £25,000-40,000
• A Chinese polychrome and gilt-painted twelve panel screen, 19th century, est: £80,000-120,000
• A pair of George I figured walnut and parcel-gilt side chairs, c. 1725, in the manner of Thomas Roberts Junior, est: £20,000-30,000.
• A Queen Anne gilt-gesso girandole wall mirror, circa 1715, est: £12,000-18,000.
Image: A Chinese polychrome and gilt-painted twelve panel screen, 19th century, est: £80,000-120,000. Photo: Sotheby’s