Sir Elton clears out the kitsch and pockets £1.4m from sale

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To the untrained eye they appeared to be classic examples of the kind of dog-lover kitsch that can be seen regularly in junk shop windows.

Yet there was something special about the "pair of composition seated poodles, modern'' that went under the hammer as lot 141 at Sotheby's auction house in London yesterday: these stone pooches had once stood guard at the fireplace of Sir Elton John.

And so the modest estimate of 50 quid each proved wide of the mark. The poodles were sold for more than 20 times their asking price, at £2,160 the pair. Sir Elton will have been pleasantly surprised at the handsome return from the auction of more than 400 pieces of art and furniture from his Regency townhouse in London, which he has decided to refurbish in a more contemporary manner. He expected to make about £800,000, but the final proceeds are likely to be nearer to £1.4m.

The singer offered for sale an extraordinary collection of kitsch that ranged from mock leopard-skin sofas and bronzes of naked discus throwers to richly embroidered tablecloths and busts of Napoleon. Even Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the budget of his dreams would have struggled to assemble such bric-a-brac.

Not that the bidders at Sotheby's were sniffy yesterday.

The singer's commode, designed by Biedermeier, raised more than £4,000. A couple of waste-paper bins valued at £40 went for £550.

The tone was set early on as the first lot, a birchwood clock, sold for three times the asking price, at £12,000.

Sir Elton's collection of portrait paintings proved especially popular. One, of a heavy-jowelled French aristocrat, described as "a follower of Hyacinthe Rigaud'' and portrayed in the kind of extravagant wig favoured by Sir Elton at fancy-dress parties, went for £6,600. A painting titled Sailor, depicting a Russian seaman posing hand on hip, had an estimate of £500 but sold for £4,200. And a 17th-century portrait of the Essex gentlewoman Elizabeth Honeywood made £54,000.

Sir Elton, worth an estimated £230m, said in the catalogue that he had "wanted to create a calm, comfortable, elegant and hospitable home'' in his six-bedroom property in Holland Park, west London. But the singer and his partner, David Furnish, felt the time was right to give the house a makeover, so that Sir Elton could explore his "new passion'' for contemporary art.

"I will be sad to say farewell to so many items that I have come to love and which have given me such aesthetic pleasure over the years,'' he said adding that he hoped, "they in turn will give others the same sense of joy that they have brought me."