'Two Great Scottish Collections Triples Estimate to Bring £3.8 Million
LONDON, 31 MARCH 2017 – This week at Sotheby’s in London, fervent interest in the history of Scotland saw collectors out in force, eager to acquire items from two remarkable collections which each tell the story of an important family steeped in the nation’s past: the Forbeses of Pitsligo, tastemakers rooted in 18th-century Edinburgh, and the Marquesses of Lothian, an ancient and noble lineage. Over 1000 participants drove the sale total of Two Great Scottish Collections on 28 March to £3,799,077 ($4,768,981), over three times the pre- sale estimate (£1.2 – 1.76 million), with successful bids fielded from eight institutions.
The star of the sale was the Fettercairn Jewel – a 16th century virtuoso enamelled gold pendant set with an almandine garnet on the back – which was acquired by National Museums Scotland. This unique piece of Scottish history sparked a battle between bidders on the telephones and in the saleroom, driving the final price to £236,750, a figure far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £30,000-50,000.
Harry Dalmeny, Sotheby’s UK Chairman, said: “These two collections provoked intense bidding throughout a marathon sale which lasted nine hours and saw a steady stream of auctioneers take to the rostrum. We’re thrilled to have been able to share with both collectors and public alike, through such rich content, as many revelations about the history of Scotland as about the families who assembled them over nearly four centuries.”
David Macdonald, Sotheby’s Specialist in charge of the sale, commented: “Though both collections recently made the journey from Scotland to London for the auction, it’s lovely to think that many of the items will make the journey back home again, especially the Fettercairn Jewel. The response from private collectors, not only Scottish but from all over the world, has been extraordinary, and the fact that a number of institutions were able to secure works was a fitting conclusion to what has been a unique celebration of all things Scottish.”
Property from Fettercairn House led the pair, with over 400 lots from 2000 years ago to the present day, followed by some 70 lots from the Stores and Attics at Monteviot House, the current seat of the Marquess of Lothian. Over the centuries, Fettercairn House in Kincardineshire became a depository for a trove of treasures passed down through generations of Forbeses, from the romance of Alexander, 4th Lord Forbes of Pitsligo, one of Scotland’s most heroic figures fêted for his participation in the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745, to his descendants, the extraordinary gentlemen Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet (1739-1806) and his eldest son, Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet (1773-1828), sons of the Scottish Enlightenment. The estate of Fettercairn was brought into the family’s possession when his son Sir William married Williamina Belsches, Sir Walter Scott’s great love. This was the moment when treasures from the magical houses in the Forbes name began converging on Fettercairn.
The emergence onto the market of the Fettercairn Jewel, discovered last year in the library at Fettercairn House, represents an important rediscovery for the history of Scottish Renaissance jewellery. The craftsmanship of this particular piece is at a level seldom seen in Renaissance jewellery, and the reverse panel is directly comparable to the celebrated Darnley or Lennox Jewel in the Royal Collection.
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