A quarter of the Easton Neston estate’s vast and hugely significant art collection is to be sold at auction in May.

Dozens of masterpieces including paintings, furniture, sculptures, silverware and books will be sold as the dismantling of the Hesketh family’s Easton Neston estate continues, following Lord Hesketh’s decision to sell up last year.

The 3,319-acre estate has been in the Hesketh-Fermor family for nearly 500 years, during which time the estate’s owners have accumulated an unrivalled collection of works of art, dating from as far back as the Tudor period.

Highlights of the sale include some fine pieces of English, French and Continental furniture, such as a rare and important mid-18th century Gothick cabinet commissioned by the Countess of Pomfret for Pomfret Castle, estimated at £100,000-£150,000. A fine suite of George III gilt seat furniture in the manner of John Cobb is expected to reach up to £90,000, while a beautiful giltwood sofa attributed to Thomas Chippendale is estimated to fetch between £40,000 and £60,000.

Parts of Sir Thomas Fermor’s extensive collection Oriental works of art will also go under the hammer, including some very fine Chinese lacquer vases and bowls, a number of early Chinese bronzes, and a stunning group of Chinese cloisonn?massed in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Old master paintings in the collection include works collected throughout the 18th and 19th centuries by artists such as Jan van Goyen, Joseph van Bredael, Joost Cornelisz. Droochsloot and Pieter de Bloot, as well as an interesting group of 17th century Dutch and Flemish still-life paintings. These will be sold alongside a splendid array of English portraits, including fine family portraits attributed to Robert Peak, Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller, as well as an unpublished portrait of George III by John Shackleton.

Other pieces to be sold from this incredibly personal collection include a pair of extremely rare mid-17th century plaster busts of Sir William and Lady Fermor by Peter Besnier, Sculptor in Ordinary to Charles I. Dating from the early years of the Commonwealth, these beautiful plasters number among a handful of surviving works by Besnier and are estimated at £40,000 to £60,000.

Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: ‘The collection of works of art at Easton is one of the most significant to have been put together by a British family over the last 500 years. The house is full of rare and beautiful objects that reflect the changing tastes and fortunes of nearly 20 generations of the Fermor-Hesketh family, and Sotheby’s is extremely honoured to have been chosen to conduct such an historic sale.’

The sale will be held at Easton Neston, near Towcester, and will take place over three days, from Tuesday, May 17, 2005 to Thursday, May 19, 2005, with viewing at the house prior to the sale from Thursday, May 12 to Monday, May 16, 2005.

  • David J. Gill

    The EASTON NESTON collection is described above as ” a vast and hugely significant art collection…an unrivalled collection of works of art…one of the most significant to have been put together by a British family over the last 500 years.” Is this a Sotheby’s press release? How can all this be true in comparison to the numerous large country houses that must have both larger, older and,very likely, even more impressive collections?