Sir Richard Parsons collection heads Cheffins auction Nov. 28-29

Sir Richard Parsons

‘The Madonna and Child’ by the Master of San Miniato, who was active in Florence, circa 1460-1480. Estimate: £20,000-£30,000. Cheffins image

CAMBRIDGE, UK – Cheffins’ Fine Art Sale on Nov. 28-29 will include 500 lots of furniture, fine art, ceramics and collectors’ items. The auction will include the prestigious Sir Richard Parsons collection, originating from Norfolk. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

“The final Fine Art sale of the year includes a good mix of paintings, furniture, ceramics and collectors’ items, some of which have exceptional history and provenance. The important, multi-category Sir Richard Parsons Collection includes some of the highlights in the paintings section, whilst there is a series of high-quality and valuable furniture, such as a Gillow library table and an impressive oyster veneer cabinet,” said Cheffins Director Luke Macdonald.

Sir Richard Parsons was a well-known career diplomat and crime fiction writer, who throughout the 1970s and 1980s was successively British Ambassador to Hungary, Spain and Sweden. His books include The Moon Pool, The Den of the Basilisk, Howling at the Moon, and under his pseudonym, John Haythorne, Mandrake in Granada and Mandrake in the Monastery among others. Parsons left the Diplomatic Service in 1987 and retired to Whittington, near Kings Lynn, where he focused on his writing and gave talks on his diplomatic adventures at the town’s literary festival, before passing away in 2016.

The collection includes a series of important paintings, with the headline lot being a 15th- century altarpiece, depicting The Madonna and Child (above) by the Master of San Miniato. Dating back to circa 1460-1480, this altarpiece is a new discovery by the artist who painted a number of altarpieces in the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte in Florence. It will be the first time that this picture has been offered on the open market since the 19th century. It is believed that it was purchased by a member of the family, potentially on the Grand Tour. It has an estimate of £20,000-£30,000/$25,744-$38,615.

Also within the collection is an important miniature by Isaac Oliver, circa 1612, of Thomas Fones (below), mayor of Plymouth in 1620, the year the Mayflower sailed. Sir Richard Parsons is a descendant of the famous Fones family and the miniature is estimated to make between £3,000 and £5,000. In addition, there are seven watercolors by highly regarded artist Alfred Parsons, who was Sir Richard Parsons’ grandfather. Include are views of Italy and the UK and also over 220 pieces of Herend porcelain that vary in value from £100 to £400.

Sir Richard Parsons

Portrait miniature of Thomas Fones by Isaac Oliver (Anglo-French, c. 1565-1617),  watercolor on vellum. Estimate: £3,000-£5,000.Cheffins image

Sarah Flynn, head of Paintings at Cheffins, commented: “As well as the Master of San Miniato altarpiece, the Isaac Oliver miniature is also an important piece within the collection. Oliver was a master of his trade and these items are rarely seen on the open market today. Painted the year that the Mayflower carried the Pilgrim Fathers to the New World, this image of the enterprising and dashing Thomas Fones is set to draw interest from both private collectors and trade buyers.”

The sale also includes a number of important furniture lots, with the highlight being a Regency rosewood and brass inlaid library table, in the manner of the great furniture and cabinetmakers, Gillow. Dating back to circa 1825, the table is of very similar design to the Hackwood Park Library Table that was supplied by Gillow in 1813 for the second Baron Bolton. It has an estimate of £10,000-£15,000.

Sir Richard Parsons

Regency rosewood and brass inlaid library table in the manner of Gillows. Estimate:£10,000-£15,000. Cheffins image

The earliest piece is a 15th-century elm and iron-bound chest, which is possibly an ecclesiastical strong chest and which has an estimate of £2,000 to £4,000.

Other notable lots are a series of early portraits, including one of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Queen Elizabeth I’s most trusted adviser and builder of Burghley House, Stamford, which dates back to 1597. This has an estimate of £10,000-£15,000.

Sir Richard Parsons

Portrait of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Anglo-Flemish School, 1597. Estimate:£10,000-£15,000. Cheffins image.

There is also an original portrait of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, dating back to the early 17th century from the Studio of Robert Walker and consigned from Northborough Manor, which is expected to make between £1,000 and £1,500.

Sir Richard Parsons

Studio of Robert Walker (British, c. 1610–1658), Portrait of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). Cheffins image

For more information contact Cheffin’ Fine Art team at 01223 213343.