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Sotheby's To Offer Property from the Lake Como Residence of Gianni Versace
Giovanni Tognolli (Bieno 1786 – 1862 Rome). The Battle of the Amazons. Estimate: £25,000-40,000. Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s London announced the sale on Wednesday 18th March, 2009, of the exquisite collection of furniture and Works of Art from the home of Gianni Versace on the shores of Lake Como, Villa Fontanelle, Moltrasio. One of fashion’s most internationally celebrated designers, Gianni Versace’s style and creative flair was exemplified in the stunning neo-classical interior design of his villa. He set out to create his own personal Arcadia at Villa Fontanelle and the result was the recreation of a magnificent interior of the neo-classical and empire style, with careful attention paid to every detail, from the furniture to the spectacular mosaic floors and panelling. His discerning approach to furnishing his home resulted in the impressive collection of continental furniture, sculpture and silver works and 18th and 19th century paintings to be offered in this single-owner sale. The 550 lots are expected to fetch in excess of £2 million. Prior to the sale Sotheby’s will recreate highlights of certain rooms of the villa in its New Bond Street galleries - capturing Versace’s eye for beauty and careful arrangement, from his choice of furniture down to the sumptuous bedding and soft furnishings - to evoke the spectacular setting from which the works to be offered for sale originate.

Sotheby’s European Deputy Chairman responsible for Single-Owner Collections, Mario Tavella, comments: “It is a great pleasure to orchestrate this remarkable sale of such a maverick of style whose taste and influence is epitomised in the Villa Fontanelle collection. This is the last opportunity to enter into Versace’s world and buy something from a collection that is representative of his legacy.”

The yellow 19th century villa 30 miles from Milan on the shores of Lake Como was for 20 years Versace’s favourite house and weekend retreat as well as the scene of glamorous weekend parties attended by guests including Princess Diana, Madonna, Sting and Elton John. Highlights of the sale include spectacular life-size casts of Antonio Canova’s Pugilists which were beautifully arranged in Gianni Versace’s own bedroom, and a fine and rare pair of Italian cherry wood breakfront bookcases by Karl Roos after designs by Giuseppe Valadier, circa 1814. Many of the items included in the sale are recognizable for having featured in the iconic photographs taken by Helmut Newton at the villa, where the distinctive decorative interior design schemes presented a stunning setting for Newton’s images which were published in his book Do Not Disturb. The beautiful furniture, sculptures and paintings are not only impressive in the daring and imaginative combinations Versace created in each room, but each item is exquisite in itself, and it is only when appreciating each item individually that one can fully recognise Versace’s discerning eye for quality and individual design.

Italian designer Gianni Versace owned several homes, including his Milan and New York residences, but it was at Villa Fontanelle that he would seek refuge from work. Versace said of the beautiful villa: “The house in Moltrasio is a Proust house, whereas the ones in Milano and Miami are more Batman . . . It is the house that really belongs to me, reflecting a mirror image of all that I am, for better of worse.” The property dates back to the first half of the 19th century and was built right on the water’s edge of Lake Como by an eccentric visiting Englishman, Lord Charles Currie, when he couldn’t find an available villa. Versace bought the villa in a state of abandonment in 1977 with a view to restoring it to its former neoclassical glory. He completed the project, including the landscaping of the three surrounding acres of ornamental gardens, in December 1980. When it came to thefurnishing the villa, every item installed was chosen by Versace in accordance with his signature colour scheme of blue and gold.

The pair of casts of Canova’s wrestlers in plaster (est. £20,000-£40,000) were part of a theme that ran through the villa in homage to the male form. Antonio Canova's sculpture defined neoclassicism. His life-size statues of Creugas and Damoxenos were his manifesto to his aesthetic ideals. Canova was deemed by his contemporaries as "the supreme minister of beauty," and his Pugilists were his tour-de-force. Among the paintings from Versace’s collection to be offered is the tempera on canvas, a tondo, Hercules at the Crossroads Between Vice and Virtue (est. £25,000-40,000), painted in Italy in 1820 and attributed to Pelagio Palagi, as well as a very good collection of paintings on glass,miniatures and a vast array of works of art depicting Roman emperors.

The exceptional pair of Italian cherry wood and patinated bronze-mounted breakfront bookcases by Karl Roos (est. £60,000-100,000 and £80,000-120,000) were housed in Versace’s bedroom. Originally commissioned by Princess Pauline Boghese for the Library at Palazzo Borghese in Rome, the bookcases are each crowned with a triangular pediment surmounted by four marble busts of Roman dignitaries flanking an urn, above a frieze with ribbon-tied floral swags, and each mounted with the Borghese coat of arms of a gryphon surmounted by a coronet.

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