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Christie's to Offer The Niall Hobhouse Collection in London
Bhawani Das, Giant Indian Flying Fruit Bat, from the Collection of Lady Impey to be sold at Chrsitie's. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's.

LONDON.- Niall Hobhouse’s collection represents 30 years of collecting and is best described as an interwoven assemblage of interests that co-exist harmoniously. Contrasts and juxtapositions of Western and Oriental art unite the wonderful myriad of collections within the greater collection and make the sale so exciting. The range is diverse and displays Niall Hobhouse’s distinctive taste for objects that are beautifully made, created with a particular vision and which contain a wide range of associations. West really does meet East when Niall Hobhouse’s aesthetic judgment places Joseph Gandy's spectacular architectural vision for the Duke of Wellington with some of the best and rarest Thomas Daniell views of India.

A fascinating selection of exquisite treasures from both the Western and Oriental worlds reveal Niall Hobhouse’s admiration for the impact that the Indian sub continent had on European artists and in equal measure the impact European artist’s had on native painters and craftsmen. The collection, which has been in situ at the family home of Hadspen in Somerset, offers works of art that epitomize the captivating taste of Niall Hobhouse, whose family has had strong links with India since the 19th century. Individual estimates range from £500 to £300,000 and the sale is expected to realise in excess of £1.5 million.

Niall Hobhouse: “The Christie’s sale is happening because I want to simplify my life, and above all to focus the collecting on architectural material. There is a great deal that I will miss, and there are many items like the Savonnerie fragment from the Lourve – which tell almost perfect stories about patronage; these will be very tough to see go. The sale is a way of introducing a kind of discipline into my collecting habit.”

Andrew Waters, Director in the Private Collections Department, Christie’s London: “Niall Hobhouse is a restless collector who surrounds himself with works of art acquired with a passionate heart and an eager eye. Niall’s taste is perfectly reflected in the wide range of diverse and eclectic objects to be offered at Christie’s. The collection illustrates both Niall’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge and his complimentary interests. We look forward to welcoming international clients to our London salerooms to marvel at this unique collection of art from the Western and Oriental worlds.”

FROM THE EAST - A leading highlight is a fascinating set of five Indonesian fulllength portraits of officials from the Court of Madura, North of Java, from circa 1830. Madura was held under the influence of the Dutch who pioneered trade with the region through the Dutch East India Company from the late 17th century. The set of five portraits is painted with oil and gold paint on canvas and include a Regent, a district chief, an administrator, a military officer and a pike bearer (estimate: £200,000-£300,000). Another highlight is an Indian colonial gold double snuff box gifted to Sir John C Hobhouse (Byron's great friend and later executor) by his friend Prince Samh O’Deen in July 1835 which is inscribed To the Rt Hon Sir J. C. Hobhouse Bt. M.P. Prest of the India Board from his Friend Prince Samh O’Deen of Mysore July 1835 (estimate: £4,000-£6,000).

An important collection of Company School pictures from the famous collection of Lady Impey, a natural historian and patron of the arts in 18th century India, includes evocative images of a giant Indian flying fruit bat, a mountain goat and an Indian crane (estimate: £30,000-£50,000). The flying fruit bat is by the hand of Bhawani Das, one of the most renowned Indian artists of the 18th century, and is signed in the lower left corner. A further highlight is a rare set of 12 views of Calcutta 1768-1788 by Thomas Daniell (1749-1840). Having sailed to India from Gravesend in 1785 and made his way to Calcutta, Daniell established himself as a topographical artist. In 1788, he completed his most recognized work and wrote ‘The Lord be praised at length, I have completed my twelve views. The fatigue I have experienced... has almost worn me out.’ The artist’s depiction of the city appealed to the British elite and their craving for romanticism, and these views are said to have directly influenced the architecture of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The etchings to be offered at Christie’s are hand-coloured with aquatint and are offered in exceptional condition (estimate: £15,000-£25,000).

FROM THE WEST - An early British highlight from the collection is Portrait of Wanton, with jockey up by John Wootton (c.1682-1764), a pioneer of English sporting art (estimate: £70,000- £100,000). The portrait is set on the far side of the Devil’s Ditch in Newmarket, the racing capital of Britain, and shows the town in the background, with the distinctive profiles of the King’s Stables, St. Mary’s Church, the King’s Stand and the Windmill visible to the right of the picture. The work is signed and dated 1719 and the subject is believed to be Bay Wanton, a racehorse which was owned by Lord Dorchester. Design for Waterloo Palace, the proposed town residence of the Duke of Wellington by Joseph Michael Gandy, A.R.A. (1771-1843) is drawn in pen and grey and black ink with watercolour and presents a grand design with a classical theme (estimate: £60,000-£80,000). The Duke of Wellington acquired Stratfield Saye estate in Hampshire in 1817 and had originally planned to replace the existing house with a more prestigious building to be called Waterloo Palace. The Duke opted instead to build additions and improvements to the existing building, and the palace was never built.

An exciting and historic highlight is a rare surviving fragment of a Savonnerie carpet ordered by Louis XIV to furnish the Grande Galerie du Bord de l’Eau at the Louvre (estimate: £30,000-£50,000). When Louis XIV ascended the throne in 1661, it was decided with his chief minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert, that a refurbishment of the Louvre was necessary to make a statement to the world manifesting the power of the King and the State. One aspect of this huge redecoration plan was to furnish the Galerie d'Apollon and the Galerie du Bord de l’Eau, otherwise known as the Grande Galerie, with carpets of a calibre not yet executed in France. Work began in 1667 and the weaving of the commission took approximately two years to complete, with carpets being delivered the years of 1668 and 1669. This magnificent suite of carpets was never installed in situ, as Louis XIV lost interest in the restoration of the Louvre and moved his court to Versailles in 1678. The importance of the Grande Galerie carpets, however, was neither forgotten by Louis XIV nor lost on his immediate descendants. For the seventy-eight years following Louis XIV's death, the carpets were stored virtually intact by the Gande Meuble. Occasionally, Louis XV and Louis XVI used some of the carpets from the series for ceremonies or events, underscoring the high respect with which they were regarded. The fragment to be offered at Christie’s is decorated by a symbol of the sun, hinting at Louis XIV’s moniker ‘the Sun King’.

To coincide with the pre-sale exhibition for this auction, Christie’s is pleased to host a public exhibition of rare and important Anglo-Indian and Indian paintings from The Royal Asiatic Society, London. This non-selling exhibition titled In Good Company – The Royal Asiatic Society and India will focus on pictures of the Indian sub-continent collected by members of the Society during the early 19th century; including Colonel James Tod, Major-General Charles Doyle and Lady Jones. This exhibition will be on public view at Christie's London at the same time as the Niall Hobhouse Collection.

Niall Hobhouse is a collector, author and private art dealer based in London and Somerset. He was raised in Somerset and moved to London in the late 1970s where he became captivated by the aesthetic, historic and intellectual offerings of the art world. In partnership with Giles Eyre, he established the gallery of Eyre and Hobhouse in Duke Street which was for ten years focussed principally on Indian material from the colonial period. Niall’s interests diversified and flourished and in the mid-1980s he joined Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox where he further expanded his knowledge and collecting passion. Since the early 1990s, Niall has worked as an independent art advisor specializing in Anglo-Indian art and architectural projects.

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