£21m auction boost for Spencer estate

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The Independent Online

Earl Spencer's estate was more than £21 million better off today after a three-day auction of Old Masters paintings, carriages and other treasures owned by the family.

The items from Althorp, the ancestral home of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and her brother fetched a total of £21,076,288 during the sale at Christie's in London.

One of the main lots, a portrait by Sir Peter Paul Rubens entitled A Commander Being Armed for Battle and painted in the early 17th century, sold for £9,001,250 on July 6 - the second highest price for the artist at auction.

A second painting, King David, by 17th-century Italian artist Giovanni Francesco Barbieri fetched £5,193,250 - a record price for the artist at auction.

Althorp, in Northamptonshire, is undergoing a £10 million reroofing and restoration project.

A group of 19th-century horse-drawn carriages from the Spencer Carriage Collection and valuables from Althorp's attics, stables and cellars also went under the hammer, realising £2,024,038 for the 757 lots - more than double pre-sale expectations.

Lots on sale included butler's trays, kitchen copper jelly moulds and textiles, attracting internet bids from as far afield as Australia, China and Kazakhstan.

The Spencer State Chariot sold for £133,250 against an estimated price of £50,000-80,000.

A collection of military uniforms made by Hawkes and Co in 1911 for Viscount Althorp, later the 7th Earl Spencer, who served as a captain in the Life Guards during the First World War was bought by Gieves & Hawkes for £30,000 for its archive.

Furniture, art and porcelain from Spencer House, the family's London town house until 1924 also went under the hammer fetching £4,857,750 for the 70 sold lots.

The top price of £802,850 was paid for a pair of George II sabicu and lime open armchairs thought to be designed by James 'Athenian' Stuart.

The trustees of Althorp Estate said in a statement: "For the sales this week we carefully chose a selection of works from Althorp that could be offered at public auction while maintaining the breadth and integrity of the core Spencer collections.

"The trustees are pleased that the auctions at Christie's attracted such significant worldwide interest from both collectors and public institutions, and that they realised a total of £21.1 million.

"The sales have released capital that will make it possible for us to further diversify our assets, particularly in the acquisition, development and retention of commercial and residential property.

"This will support our fundamental aim of ensuring that the Althorp Estate thrives for future generations."

Orlando Rock, deputy chairman, Christie's Europe, and Andrew Waters, head of private collection and country house sales, London added: "These sales captured the imagination and interest of collectors and institutions from around the world, as seen in particular by the volume of people that have visited the London salerooms to see and admire the pre-sale exhibitions.

"The individual estimates for these sales ranged from £200 to £8 million, creating an exciting series of auctions that were accessible to collectors at almost every level, and the results reflect the enduring appeal of the Spencer family."

The Althorp Estate covers 14,000 acres of countryside in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Norfolk.

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