Tag Archives: Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s Auction Results: That Mario Buatta Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I lusted after one specific item from Sotheby’s auction of Mario Buatta’s personal possessions, the  “Louis XV Five-Fold Blue and White Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen, the Wallpaper 18th Century”. I promised to post the sale price after the auction.

The auction is over now, and it was a huge success, bringing in $7.6 million, about 2½ times the official Sotheby’s high estimate.

And the screen? The pre-sale estimate was that it would go for $4,000 to $6,000.

It went for $15,000.

Designed by the Mario Buatta of Bizarro World

From the exterior, this house looks fine. Inside, it looks like it was thrown together by a troop of monkeys who had somehow highjacked a shipment of Heisenberg’s finest blue meth.

I posted recently about Sotheby’s Auction of the Mario Buatta Estate, and about Buatta’s mastery of English country house style. If on some distant Bizarro World, there’s a Bizarro Mario Buatta, this is what his interiors would look like.

The "Grand" Staircase

The “Grand” Staircase

Imagine the entrance you could make walking down these stairs, dressed head-to-toe in Cruella de Vil’s Dalmatian-skin coat, flicking the ashes from your cigarette holder as you go.

The Dining Room/Armory

The Dining Room/Armory

Because it’s always a good idea to have a lot of guns close at hand, in the (very) unlikely event that someone might try to steal your precious possessions.

The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room

Furnishings and accessories from the Dollar Store’s “Kalifornia Kool Kollection”.

The Billiard Room

The Billiard Room

The Billiard Room, where Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy with the candlestick. Plum claimed he’d been driven crazy by the decor, and was acquited by reason of insanity.


The house is owned by someone identified as “Dr. Phil”, who is apparently a TV “personality”. He’s never lived there, though—Why not?—and it’s currently being used by his son.

The house is on the market for $5.75 million. According to the listing, the one-of-a-kind finishes can be kept.

Sotheby’s Auction of the Mario Buatta Estate

Mario Buatta, affectionately known as “The Prince of Chintz”, died in October 2018 at the age of 82. On 23 January 2020, Sotheby’s will host an auction of his personal possessions, under the title Mario Buatta: Prince of Interiors.

Here’s a pdf of the full 236-page catalogue for the auction, suitable for downloading.

If I could pick just one item from that catalogue, it would be this:

The catalogue describes it as a “Louis XV Five-Fold Blue and White Chinoiserie Wallpaper Screen, the Wallpaper 18th Century” The estimate is between $4,000 and $6,000, but auction house estimates for this sort of thing are always absurdly low, so as not to frighten away potential buyers. I’ll post the real price after the auction.


Mario Buatta’s interiors were designed to be reminiscent of the rooms in an English country house. Here are some samples, found on the Web:


I’ve always thought of Buatta as the Ralph Lauren of interior design.

Ralph Lauren (né Lifshitz) was born in The Bronx in the 1930s, to first-generation Jewish immigrants from Belarus. Lauren has built his empire by styling clothes that reflect a classic old-money WASP sensibility, very different from the world of his youth.

Mario Buatta was born on Staten Island in 1930s, and grew up in a house where the living
room “was off-limits so that the vacuum tracks might not get disturbed.” Buatta became the master of a style that captured the look and feel of the English country house.

The Vivien Leigh Collection — Movie Auction of the Year

Vivien Leigh won Academy Awards for playing Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois, two of the all-time great women’s movie roles.

Now, 50 years after her death, what remains of her estate is being offered at auction by Sotheby’s London. The full auction catalogue has not yet been posted, but you can see a small sample at the auction site.

From the press release: “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 Oliver [sic] 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.”

Included in the sale will be Vivien Leigh’s personal copy of Gone with the Wind, given to her by the author Margaret Mitchell.


As Blanche DuBois, Leigh puts her faith in the kindness of strangers in A Streetcar Named Desire.

As Scarlett O’Hara, Leigh rises from despair in Gone with the Wind.


The auction for “Vivien: The Vivien Leigh Collection” will take place on 26 Sep 2017 at Sotheby’s London.

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

George Edward Robertson - The Lady of Shallott

“The Lady of Shallott,” by George Edward Robertson

I can’t find any biographical information about George Edward Robertson on the Web, and he’s not referenced in any of my usually comprehensive books on Victorian painters.  I selected this work because it’s yet another representation of a poem favoured by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood:   Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot.”

“The Lady of Shallot” was the subject of paintings by  John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt,  and  John William Waterhouse.  I’ve already posted two of the Waterhouse paintings here and here.

Robertson’s painting sold at Sotheby’s in January 2014 for $71,250.  From the catalogue:

“The central figure on the shore, Lancelot grasps the delicate wrist of a noblewoman who clutches his shoulder in shock as he beholds the final resting place of the red haired maiden.  Her white gown spilling into the murky water below, the Lady of Shalott’s fair face rests in stark contrast to the distorted features of the claustrophobic crowd that leans in, curious and fearful as they await their Lancelot’s final judgment.  The sun sets in the background, reflecting its orange hues in the river below and casting the characters in a gentle glow at the close of day.  Drawing the viewer’s eye first from the river connected to the lady lying in the boat, along the lines of her barge through the brawny riverhands pulling her to shore, and onto the uncapped Lancelot and his frozen court, Robertson deftly shows his technical command of the large format style favored by the Royal Academy while emotively capturing an acute moment of literary magnitude.”

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

Tiffany Landscape

“River of Life” Window

Sotheby’s is about to auction “…one of the greatest collections of Tiffany and Prewar Design ever to appear at auction at the sale of The Warshawsky Collection:   Masterworks of Tiffany and Prewar Design.”  The collection was amassed by Chicago-based collector Roy Warshawsky between the late 1960s and the early 1990s.

The estimate for the “River of Life” Window pictured above is $200,000 — $300,000.

Tiffany Lamp

“Elaborate Peony” Lamp

Estimate:  $600,000 — $900,000.

Tiffany Vase

“Lily Pad” Vase

Estimate:  $25,000 — $35,000.

The auction will take place on 19 May 2015.

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_Venus_Verticordia a

“Venus Verticordia”, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s watercolour version of “Venus Verticordia,” mentioned here a couple of months ago, sold at auction this week.

The painting went for £2,882,500 ( $4,522,931), well above the £1,000,000-1,500,000 pre-sale estimate.  The winning bidder was an unnamed UK private collector.  I’d be willing to bet that it was the appalling Andrew Lloyd Webber.


From my earlier post, which I’m too lazy to link to right now:

The model for the face in the painting was Alexa Wilding.   The body was that of a cook who had posed for Rossetti  years earlier.  Wilding was regarded by the other artists “respectable”; Rossetti, who paid her a small salary to model for him exclusively, found her dull, and wrote that he wished he could shut her in a cupboard when he wasn’t painting her.  Respectable though she may have been, she had at least five children outside of marriage before emigrating to South Africa to begin a new life.

“Venus Verticordia” ended Rossetti’s friendship with the prudish John Ruskin, then Britain’s foremost art critic.

“John Ruskin’s prudishness and ambivalence towards the naked female form has been well-documented….  Ruskin had become increasingly concerned by what he perceived to be sensuousness in Rossetti’s art.  Unable to confront the real reason for his discomfort regarding Venus Verticordia, he focused his critical wrath on the roses that Rossetti had gone to so much trouble to paint – even borrowing money from his brother to have them sent out-of-season from the south of France.  In a letter to Rossetti, Ruskin referred to them as ‘awful… in their coarseness.’  Graham Robertson, one of Rossetti’s supporters, responded to Ruskin’s reaction to the painting in a letter to Rossetti:  ‘I suppose he is reflecting upon his morals, but I never hear a word breathed against the perfect responsibility of a honeysuckle.  Of course roses have got themselves talked about from time to time, but really if one were to listen to scandal about flowers, gardening would become impossible.’”
—from the Sotheby’s press release

This version of “Venus Verticordia” has been out of the public eye since it was last sold at auction in 1886.  Its original owner was William Graham, M.P. for Glasgow, who owned 37 pictures by Rossetti.

The auction will take place on 10 December 2014.