Auction of rarities from Longleat fetches £27m

An auction of art and antiques from Longleat House, the home of the Marquis of Bath, has raised £27m, helping to secure the future of the Wiltshire property.

Books, silver, watercolours and paintings by Old Masters went under the hammer at the two-day sale in Christie's, London, which ended yesterday.

Lord Bath said: "It is always difficult to part with such beautiful antiques, but we were extremely fortunate that the items sold constitute only a tiny proportion of the overall Longleat collection.''

The items sold came from members of the family who were not closely associated with the house. They included pictures, manuscripts and books belonging to Beriah Botfield, a Victorian bibliophile and antiquarian whose collection arrived at the house during the Second World War.

The Botfield collection, which sold for £12.4m, included an illuminated manuscript on vellum of Virgil's Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid in Latin that went for £1.3m, setting a record for a Renaissance copy of a classical work.

The first book printed by William Caxton in English at Bruges before he introduced his printing press to England, Raoul Le Fevre's Recuyll as the Historyes of Troye, sold for £666,650. Lord Bath still has a copy.

A porcelain fox modelled by Johann Kandler, the master of the Miessen factory, went to the J Paul Getty museum at Malibu, California, which paid more than £1m.

The museum also bought the companion model of a turkey for £831,650. The pair were created for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace in Dresden in 1731-35.

The picture section was dominated by Dutch Old Masters. The top lot was Portrait of a Silversmith by Thomas Hendricksz de Keyser, which sold for £644,650.

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