Duke’s collection makes £32m at auction

Jan Brueghel the Elder -The Garden of Eden
Jan Brueghel the Elder -The Garden of Eden

A private collection of treasures belonging to the Duke of Northumberland has made £32million at auction.

Over the course of two days, a number of items relating to some of the defining moments of British history were sold at Sotheby’s in London.

The belongings, some of which have been in the estates for hundreds of years, were sold to pay for damage to Northumberland Estates-owned land at Newburn which was seriously affected by flooding when a culvert collapsed.

And one of the items set a new auction record for Giovanni da Rimini, when a wing of a diptych depicting episodes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and other saints sold for £5,682,500, almost double its high estimate.

Dating from around 1300-05, a pivotal moment in European painting, the preserved panel, painted in tempera on gold ground, had been in the collection of the Dukes of Northumberland since 1856.

The Treasures sale was led by a Roman marble statue of Aphrodite, which established a new record for any classical sculpture sold at auction in Europe when it sold for £9,378,500.

In addition to the work by Giovanni the Rimini, other highlights included Jan Brueghel the Elder’s Garden of Eden – dated 1613 and painted on copper – which fell to Patti Wong, chairman of Sotheby’s Asia for £6,802,500.

A fascinating portrait of Mohawk War Chieftain Thayendanegea (to whom the English gave the name Joseph Brant) made by Gilbert Stuart in 1786 surpassed estimates to achieve £4,114,500.

The money will be used to cover the £12million-plus repair bill for flood damage to flats at Newburn. The sale proceeds also generate a large tax bill which will need to be paid. After that, any remaining funds will be used to replenish cash earmarked for the preservation and upkeep of the many heritage buildings and collections under the care of the estate.

The Duke of Northumberland said: “Over the centuries, my family has had the extraordinary good fortune to be the custodians of many great treasures. We dearly hope that those that were sold yesterday will bring as much joy to their new owners as they have to both me and my ancestors. Their sale will enable us to replenish funds earmarked for the preservation and upkeep of the Northumberland Estates and Collections, which were unexpectedly needed to help repair the damage done by the Newburn floods.”