On 18 March 2014 Christies
South Kensington will offer the collection of celebrated interior designer Tessa Kennedy within the sale of Interiors. Tessa Kennedy is an international award-winning decorator to the stars who for the last 50 years has created interiors with a sense of grandeur and a hint of theatre for an impressive list of elite clients including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, George Harrison, Pierce Brosnan, as well as significant commercial commissions for De Beers and world-renowned hotels such as Claridges and The Berkeley. She is perhaps best known for designing the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz which was re-instated in 2001 and for which she was awarded Designer of the Year. The collection features furniture from her Knightsbridge apartment as well as tokens from her glamorous life among film stars and celebrities.
A number of pieces in the collection were inherited from her grandmother Milica Popovic, whose brother was Dusan Popovic one of the founders of Yugoslavia. Her apartment in Monte Carlo was a hub for social gatherings where Princess Grace, who was godmother to Kennedys daughter Millica (her godfather was King Hussein of Jordan whose Middle Eastern influence can also be seen throughout the collection), and other members of the social elite gathered to watch the Grand Prix from her balcony. A pair of Ormolu wall trophies, from Kennedys grandmothers flat in Monte Carlo were brought back to the UK on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burtons private jet as they were too large to carry on a commercial plane (estimate: £2,500 4,000).
Kennedys second husband was the Hollywood film producer Elliot Kastner; many a summer holiday was spent on set with him and Kennedys five children, where cast and crew became a close-knit family. The collection includes mementos from this period such as the jacket given to Kennedy by Marlon Brando on the set of Missouri Breaks in the mid-1970s (estimate: £1,500 - 2,500). Spending holidays on film sets influenced her children's future careers, Cassian Elwes, a film producer like his stepfather, currently has 6 Oscar nominations for his film Dallas Buyer's Club and Cary Elwes starred in films including The Princess Bride and Robin Hood.
The biggest influence on Kennedys collection was the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, whom she met at a party at the Royal Palace in Monte Carlo in the 1960s whilst visiting her grandmother, and whom was her best friend until his death in 1993. Kennedy designed her Amber Room in the Ritz Casino as homage to the great dancer. Their joint interest in rich textiles and opulent costume, ecclesiastical and gothic tastes is perhaps most obvious in the design of her bedroom. The Aubusson hangings were among several lots purchased from the Nureyev collection which Christies sold in two parts (New York and London) in 1995. She has fond memories of collecting Nureyev from the stage door at the Royal Opera House after his performances and driving him past all the antique shops she had been to that week, having selected items she knew he would like to see as they drove past. The collection also features a near pair of Baltic mahogany pedestal cabinets from the Nureyev sale at Christies New York in 1995 (estimate: £8,000 12,000).
The superb half-tester bed from Kennedys bedroom was featured in several magazines over the years including World of Interiors and Vogue (estimate: £4,000 6,000). Kennedy first spotted it in the window of an antique shop in Islington where she was distraught to find it had already been sold but a year later it was back in the window as the buyer had moved to a smaller property. This time it had been promised to Filmways Pictures to dress the set of The Eye of the Devil (1966) but Kennedy could not let it go. She bought it immediately and rented it to the film company instead.