Vivien Leigh's Collection Unveiled in its Entirety for the First Time
tuesday 11 july 2017. Hollywood icon and incandescent star of one of the most beloved films of all time, Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) captured hearts and minds with her fiery, luminous performance as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind in 1939. Her legendary status in the pantheon of all-time greats was assured when she secured what perhaps remains to this day the most coveted role in cinema history. Our perception of such legends is often imperceptibly entwined with the myths they come to embody. This September, a spotlight will reveal the inner person few people really knew, in effect Vivien’s private life, when Sotheby’s London brings to auction The Vivien Leigh Collection.
Passed down through Vivien’s family, the collection comprises paintings, jewellery, couture, books, furniture, porcelain, objets d’art and further items celebrating all aspects of her life, from the pre-war years in London, to Hollywood and beyond, up to her death in 1967. Myriad pieces drawn from the city and country homes Vivien shared with her husband Laurence Olivier will give a new perspective on Vivien, from her appreciation of art and patronage of Modern British artists, to her passion for books and fondness for entertaining and interior design. Vivien Leigh’s family commented: “We hope people take as much pleasure from this collection as our grandparents, parents and families have done.”
Harry Dalmeny, Sotheby’s UK Chairman, commented: “This is our chance to discover the real, and unexpected, Vivien Leigh. We’re all guilty of confusing our favourite actresses with the heroines they portray, of blurring Vivien’s identity with that of Scarlett O’Hara or Blanche DuBois. But, behind the guise of the most glamorous and talked-about woman of her age we find a fine art collector, patron, even a book worm, who was the intellectual equal of the literati, artists and aesthetes she counted among her coterie. Her private collection does not disappoint. Vivien approached the decoration of her homes as if she were designing a set, incorporating influences and inspiration from a life spent on screen and on stage. These houses were an extension of the theatrical space, with medieval Notley Abbey looking positively Shakespearean. Fifty years on from her death, this sale opens the door into Vivien’s private world, allowing us a privileged and fascinating glimpse into a world that otherwise only her closest friends could ever have known.”
A wedding present to Vivien Leigh and Laurence Oliver from Katharine Hepburn, their ‘snappy maid of honour’: an inscribed silver goblet by Georg Jensen (est. £8,000-12,000)
Vivien’s diaries, comprising a black leather-bound Smythson appointment diary, dating from 10 January 1937 to 25 November 1939, giving a unique insight into Vivien’s personal and professional life at the time she was catapulted to fame in her mid-twenties and first fell in love with Laurence Olivier (est. £2,000-3,000), and Vivien’s small brown leather Fortnum & Mason diary from 1953, embossed with ‘Vivien’ in gold on the cover and listing contact details for all her favourite friends, hotels, restaurants, theatres, jewellers and couturiers (est. £1,000-1,500)
Photographs, including Two Albums of Photographs of Vivien’s Early Life (est. £300-500) and A Large Collection of Photographs of Vivien and Laurence Oliver (est. £800-1,200)
ITEMS ESTIMATED AT £100 AND UNDER
A blue woven silk evening shawl designed by Pierre Balmain (est. £50-100)
Four pairs of leather evening gloves (est. £50-100)
Vivien’s teenage notebook, “Summer Term 1928” to 1931, including works of her own composition and transcriptions of her favourite poems and prose passages by authors including Rupert Brooke and W.B. Yeats (est. £100-150)
Costume designs by Motley (a theatre firm made up of three English designer-sisters) for Vivien in George Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma, 1941 (est. £100-150 each)
Vivien’s monogrammed art bag, with the initials ‘V.O.’ (est. £80-120)
ITEMS ESTIMATED AT £500 AND UNDER
The Romeo and Juliet Cigarillos Box, commemorating Vivien and Larry’s stage production of Shakespeare’s play in New York in 1940 (est. £400-600)
Three unique holiday photographs of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier taken by friends in a long velvet frame (est. £150-250)
Larry’s 18th-century silver mug engraved with his initials and the date 12th June 1947, the year when he was knighted and the day when his knighthood appeared in the honours list (est. £300-500)
A pair of vintage Gucci high ball glasses (est. £200-300)
A group of bar accessories, including a cocktail-shaker, a cocktail-shaker jug and an ice bucket (est. £400-600)
An evening gown in ivory woven satin (est. £150-250) and Four evening clutch bags (est. £150-250)
Vivien’s stamp, cast in the Arts and Crafts style circa 1950 and with an intaglio engraved with V amongst foliage (est. £300-500)
The ‘V.L.O’ Attaché Case, stamped Asprey, circa 1955 (est. £500-700)
A photograph of David Niven jumping into a swimming pool, inscribed “Fondest Love / Niven” (est. £300-500)
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