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Sotheby's reveals the world of one of the great collectors of our time: Stanley J. Seeger
Sir Winston Churchill’s Armchair, circa 1880, formerly in the estate of the late Prime Minister (Est. £3,000-5,000/ €3,600-6,000). Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- Stanley J. Seeger (1930-2011) was one of the greatest collectors of our time - a man of protean taste and all-embracing interests, with a voracious appetite for the beautiful and the quirky, and for things associated with key people or moments in history. Together with his kindred spirit and partner of 32 years Christopher Cone, Stanley Seeger devoted much of his rich and fascinating - but always very private - life to seeking out the vast array of special objects that were to surround them during their years together. This spring, over the course of two full days on 5th and 6th March, more than 1,000 works from this extraordinary collection, spanning some 75 collecting categories, will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s, under the title 1000 Ways of Seeing. Starting, chronologically, with 250 million-year-old fossilised trees, and charting many of the great moments in history and art thereafter, the collection is full of things that are either beautiful in their own right, or have a powerful story to tell, or both.

Whimsicality, humour and historical resonance always appealed to Stanley Seeger and Christopher Cone. The works of art, objects and curiosities they collected were part of their everyday life. Guests to their homes might be invited to sit in Winston Churchill’s armchair, while being poured tea from Lord Nelson’s silver teapot or served Bloody Marys from Al Capone’s cocktail shaker – a Christmas gift from the gangster’s men, engraved “To a regular guy, from the boys 1932”. Stanley Seeger’s great enthusiasm for natural history is reflected in the collection in ten fossilised dinosaur eggs from the Jurassic Period (100 million BC), while his fascination with film, history and great historical figures is reflected in Orson Welles’ working draft script for Citizen Kane (1941).

Discussing the forthcoming sale, Melanie Clore, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, who worked with Stanley Seeger many times over the years, said: “Only once in a generation does a collector with such diverse, interesting and far-reaching taste as Stanley Seeger appear. His engaging intelligence and wry sense of humour are reflected in the sheer 'joie de vivre' of this sale. Every single object has a story to tell and is enhanced by its association with one of the greatest collectors of his generation. The Seeger provenance is an imprimatur of outstanding quality, evoking the great passion and connoisseurship of one of the world’s most exceptional collectors.”

David Macdonald, who has explored and researched each of the 1,000 objects to be offered, said of his experience: “Each of these myriad objects – alternatively dazzling and witty - either sheds fascinating light on the world’s history or prompts an anecdote. Having had the privilege to work on this collection over the past year, I am sure that it will inspire many to join in the sheer fun of collecting.”

The auction has been curated into 12 thematic “chapters”, ranging from Sacred & Divine to Power & Politics and Food & Drink.

Creativity and performance

Orson Welles’ Working Draft Script for Citizen Kane
Here with its original title “American”
Dated 30 April to 9 May 1940
Cover inscribed twice “Mr Welles’ working copy”
Est. £15,000-20,000 (€17,900-23,900)
An extraordinary rarity and a fascinating insight into the making of Citizen Kane - widely acknowledged as among the very greatest films ever made. Welles kept few mementoes of his films and only one other of his Citizen Kane scripts is recorded.

Power & Politics
Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot, 1799
Robert & David Hennel
Silver, wood handle, ivory finial, detachable cover, engraved with initial N for Admiral Lord Nelson,
Est. £8,000-12,000 (€9,600-14,400)

Photograph of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia in a Fabergé Frame, 1916
Photograph by Boissonas & Eggler, St Petersburg, signed “Nicholas” and dated 1916
Est. £7,000-10,000 (€8,400-12,000)
In December 1915, King Edward VII appointed Nicholas II a Field Marshal of the British army, the uniform of which is worn in this photograph. By repute, this frame was sent to Rear-Admiral Nicholas Wolkoff, the Imperial Russian naval Attaché in London, as a present for Lord Balfour, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1915-1916, but never delivered.

Food & Drink
Meriden International Sterling Company
‘Al Capone’s Cocktail Shaker’
Engraved “To A ‘REGULAR GUY’ From THE BOYS 1932”
Est. £1,000-1,500 (€1,200-1,800)
By repute, the cocktail shaker was given to Al Capone by some of his associates as a Christmas gift in 1932

Rest & Recreation
Rudolph Nureyev’s Hat, Coat, Stick and Umbrella Stand, circa 1890
Brass mounted mahogany and stained oak of large proportions and with eight cast brass hooks, made in the USA.
Est. £3,000-5,000 (€3,600-6,000)

Travel & Exploration
RMS Titanic Claret Jug, 1912
Cut glass, electroplate, engraved RMS TITANIC
John Grinsell & Sons of Birmingham
Est. £2,000-3,000 (€2,400-3,600)
This claret jug was presented to Pursuer Reginal Barker and his officers in commemoration of RMS Titanic’s sea trials in April 1912. It was taken off the vessel before her maiden voyage during which the British liner collided with an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912.

Design & Industry
David Mach (b. 1956)
Battersea Power Station Chair
Painted pine and plywood, upholstered in white leatherette
Height: 91.5cm., 36in.
Est. £4,000-6,000 (€4,800-7,200)

Tiffany Studios
‘Geranium’ Lamp with Rare ‘Flower Pot Saucer’ Base, circa 1905
Est. £30,000-40,000 (€35,800-47,800)

Modern & New
Diego Giacometti
Table Basse Trapezoidale
Modèle aux hiboux et aux grenouilles, circa 1969
Bronze and glass
Est. £80,000-120,000 (€95,500-144,000)

Flora & Fauna
Ten Fossilised Dinosaur Eggs
Jurassic Period 100 million BC
Est. £3,000-5,000 (€3,600-6,000)

Sacred & Divine
Studio of Jan Brueghel the Younger
Paradise Landscape with the Fall of Man
Oil on panel, mid-17th century
Est. £80,000-120,000 (€95,500-144,000)

STANLEY J. SEEGER (1930-2011)
Stanley Joseph Seeger Jr was born in Milwaukee on 28 May 1930. Heir to a family timber and oil fortune, he was one of the greatest collectors of his generation. He would, as he cheerfully admitted in his light American accent, ‘collect anything.’ Throughout his life, with the help of his partner Christopher Cone, he assembled a collection of beautiful works of art, whether paintings, drawings, prints or objects. His passion for collecting surfaced, from time to time, in spectacular sales, including the sale of 88 Picassos at Sotheby’s New York in 1993 and the ‘Eye of a Collector’ sales at Sotheby’s New York and London in 2001 in which Stanley Seeger disposed of masterpieces by Miró, Bacon, Beckmann, Johns and Picasso.

Stanley Seeger studied architecture and music composition at Princeton, where he earned a bachelor’s and a masters degree. He then pursued his studies in Florence under the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola. For the rest of his life he would spend part of the day writing music, surrounded by the drums, banjos, serpents, lutes, whistles and music stands that can be seen in his personal collection.

The chamber organ also in the sale stood in the drawing room of his St James’s Place flat, overlooking Green Park, where it was accompanied by two grand pianos.

Back in the United States he began collecting art. In the 1960s, he found his spiritual home in Greece, so much so that that he took Greek nationality and returned his American passport. 1979 saw the establishment of the Stanley J. Seeger Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University, ultimately to become The Stanley J. Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies a few weeks before its benefactor’s death in June 2011.

In Mr Seeger’s eyes, the Center would be his most enduring and relevant legacy. In 1979, the painter John Craxton introduced him to Christopher Cone who would become his life-long partner. For over three decades, Stanley Seeger and Christopher Cone pursued a charmed existence, in which a large part of the day was spent perusing sale catalogues.

Meeting Christopher Cone coincided with the purchase of Sutton Place, where the couple lived for several years. During the 1980s, Stanley and Christopher came to spend more time away from England, whether in Switzerland or on the Rosenkavalier, the 1930s yacht which Stanley restored in Art Deco style. After selling Sutton Place, they lived in country homes in Berkshire and Devon, all the while enjoying their St James’ Place, London, apartment.

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