EDINBURGH (Reuters) - One of the world’s finest private collections of 19th century Victoriana goes under the hammer at auction in Edinburgh next week, including a four-poster bed in which Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor celebrated the last of her many honeymoons.
The collection — amassed by the Forbes family in the United States — includes furnishings, including paintings, furniture, household wares - and framed items of Queen Victoria’s underwear - from Old Battersea House on the south bank of London’s Thames river opposite Chelsea.
There is also a painting of Victoria on horseback with her Scottish servant John Brown holding the reins. She commissioned the painting from a photographer to present to Brown on his 50th birthday, and it remained in the family until it was sold and added to the Forbes collection in the 1980s.
Other works include a picture of Victoria and royal consort Prince Albert painted by themselves, and pictures of other Victorian notables ranging from an aging Duke of Wellington to politicians such as Benjamin Disraeli.
London-born Elizabeth Taylor, who died in March in Los Angeles aged 79, made Old Battersea House her base in London and celebrated her honeymoon with the last of her seven husbands Larry Fortensky there. She was married eight times, including twice to Richard Burton. Also on sale are twin beds once occupied by late U.S. President Ronald Reagan and his wife.
Officials of the Lyon and Turnbull auction house anticipate the sale next Tuesday could bring in up to three 3 million pounds ($4,8 million).
American art expert Curt DiCamillo told Reuters the sale of probably the finest private collection of Victoriana in the world was also expected to raise considerable interest in the United States.
“There is a lot of interest in the U.S. where the Forbes family is regarded as American “royalty” - it’s not so much that they’re interested in the period - although there is a fascination with the British royal family — but they just want something from the Forbes house,” he said.
Malcolm Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine who died in 1990, bought Old Battersea House after clambering over a fence in 1971 to see the derelict building. He restored the mansion, whose foundations date back to Tudor times and which is now on sale with an asking price of 12 million pounds.
DiCamillo said the Forbes collection apparently started after Malcolm phoned his son Christopher “Kip” Forbes and told him he had just bought a French impressionist for several million pounds. Kip - himself an art lover — reputedly said that for that amount he could put together the world’s finest collection of Victoriana. And so it started.
The Forbes family has its roots in Scotland, where Malcolm’s father Bertie - a journalist who emigrated to the United States in 1903 and founded Forbes Magazine in 1917 - was born in the Aberdeen area. Auction officials said the family had given no reason for selling off the contents of Old Battersea House.
“But times and tastes change, you know,” one said.
($1 = 0.623 British Pounds)
Edited by Paul Casciato