Monday, September 5, 2011

La Fiorentina Furnishings, Part II

As the fourth consectutive post with the common link of decorating legend Billy Baldwin, The Devoted Classicist continues with a presentation of the furnishings of the Cap Ferrat villa La Fiorentina.  Rebuilt and furnished by Roderick "Rory" Cameron and his mother Enid, Lady Kenmare, following World War II, the notable home was sold to Mary Wells and Harding Lawrence in 1970 with the Billy Baldwin interiors incorporating some of the Cameron-Kenmare decoration and furnishings.  Following the 1999 sale of the furnished villa, the interior was gutted and the furnishings sold at a celebrated 2001 auction at Sotheby's New York.  The following are selections from the catalog, Sale 7638, with the prices being the Hammer Price plus the Buyer's Premium.
A marble sculpture by Andrea Cascella, 1920-1990, UNTITLED, in three parts, 24.25" high, $10,800.

A brown lacquer center table top, now without a base. 5 ft by 30.5 in, $1,080.
The Front Hall has walls that appear to be painted to resemble marble.  No detailed photo is given for the Regency style tole peinte and glass hurricane lamp, but it is listed in the catalog, with a height of 30 inches and sold for $2,160.
A Louis XV style marble and composition console, 33.5" high, 7ft 3in wide, 23.5in deep.  $69,750.
A marble bust of Cardinal Fesch, 19th century, attributed to the workshop of Antonio Canova (1757-1822), 29" high, $21,450.

A Louis XV style rusted bronze cut-glass eight light chandelier, 5ft 3in by 42 in.  It appears that some of the crystal drops are missing in the catalog image, but note the bell-like covers for the concealed lights within the cage. $9,000.

The Master of the Liverpool Madonna (the name given to the anonymous painter active in Rome during the late 1490s), THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN, 62.5" by 45.5", $64,000.

The Dining Room as it appeared with the Billy Baldwin decoration for the Lawrences.  The Devoted Classicist does not think the white curtains were a successful treatment in this case, and was thrilled, as chance would have it, that Toby Worthington submitted the photo below from the days of occupancy by Rory Cameron and Lady Kenmare.

From Les Resussites de la Decoration Francaise 1950-60, Mr. Worthington tells us that the murals in this room date from the 18th century, but note the curtain in the center of this photo painted to match the mural.  Lady Kenmare was once a scenic painter in Hollywood, and it is said that she painted the curtain, herself.  Also of note is the sisal rug; Rory Cameron is often credited as introducing this humble material, formerly reserved for wet areas (such as around a swimming pool), for use in combination with fine furnishings.

A Venetian Twelve-light glass chandelier, modern, 4ft 4in high by 4ft 9in diameter, $9,600.

A Louis XVI cream painted console desserte, late 18th century, together with a later copy, each with a white marble top.  Painting refreshed.  32.5in high by 4ft 1.5in wide by 18.5in deep.  $43,875.
A faux marble center table, modern, with a glass top.  There were three.  All of the Dining Room furnishings date from the Cameron-Kenmare decoration except for the cloths below.

Three cream painted tables, modern, two with green and ivory silk fern pattern table cloths with an ivory placementre edge, together with a green damask lined table cloth. $3,600.
The Devoted Classicist can understand editing out the lesser pieces if the replacements are much more interesting.  However, he would probably have found a place for at least three items that were included in the sale.  The locations that they held in La Fiorentina are not known.

A tree-formed painted and parcel-gult side table, 30in high by 20.5in wide by 30.5in deep, $11,400.

A watercolor of a hawk by Van Day Truex, $6,000.
A Louis XVI white painted and black lacquer-mounted chaise.  $10,800.
This last chair is much appreciated among bloggers.  The author of What Is James Wearing? revealed that he was the successful bidder of this chair and shows two similar chairs reproduced by the noted company Frederick P. Victoria & Son that were recently in a Christies auction.   Dean Farris Style and The Peak of Chic have also featured this model, known as the Cole Porter chair, in posts on their blogs.  More on remarkable chairs from Frederick P. Victoria & Son will be featured in upcoming posts of The Devoted Classicist.

Except as noted, all photos are from the Sotheby's sale catalog THE COLLECTION OF VILLA FIORENTINA with vintage copies available here.


  1. Weren't the interiors were listed ? What happened to the Dining-Room murals and Battersby work, surely they just wantonly destroyed?

    Hertes Man

  2. H.M., it was my understanding that only the exterior was protected. There's hope that one of The Devoted Classicist readers will have information on the current status of La Fiorentina.

  3. Having read all of your posts on the subject,
    and realizing the sheer breadth and scope of the
    auction, a question lingers and nags at me:
    What possessed the Lawrences to part not only
    with the villa, but with their possessions lock
    stock and barrel? Seriously, it is beyond my
    comprehension. Every stick of furniture, evidently,
    was unsentimentally left behind. But what I cannot fathom
    is the selling of loved paintings, watercolors, drawings~
    in short, those things that "travel" with families~along
    with everything else. There's something utterly perverse
    about it, particularly when one considers the intimate
    friendship of Billy Baldwin with the Lawrences, whom
    he considered Dream Clients. Am I missing something
    here? Mary's recent dwellings were shown in the big
    book on David Mlinaric, so plainly she's "moved on".
    Yet would it have killed her to keep that charming
    watercolor by Van Day Truex?

  4. Toby, I do not understand it either. And that is one reason behind doing this post, hoping the answers will come to light. Many thanks for your contributions.

  5. Hi John-

    Love your devoted and sensitive coverage of La Fiorentina, the most legendary.
    I think the reason the couple gave it up...well, Mary did...was that Harding died, was it not? He has been gone for a long time and I imagine that was the reason. Life moved on.
    John-would be honored to be included on your blog roll...I am adding you to mine. Love your erudition.
    Cheers, DIANE

  6. I wonder the exact same thing. Twenty years ago.......I swam out to the point.....(can you imagine.....I did!) to see if I could see the staircase.....if I could see this iconic house...(my darling husband thought I might drown!)! I treaded water for an hour!

    I have no idea who could have bought this house and disposed of all of its contents.
    It makes me sad...that house and its contents have formed my taste for my lifetime.

    another age is ascending......or descending! Who knows??!?

    How lucky we all are that such wonderful photographs were taken of this lovely house.......that we can all see....and our children......and grandchildren. It is not lost. Thanks to photography!

    Such a house!

  7. Diane, Harding Lawrence died in January, 2002, at their house in Mustique of pancreatic cancer according to a NY TIMES article which said they also had a residence in London. The obituary also mentioned former ownership of La Fiorentina. A 2001 NY TIMES article about the auction that was mentioned in a previous post, said the Lawrences decided to sell as they no longer entertained on a large scale and were renting Le Clos Fiorentina, a smaller cottage that had been Rory Cameron's home after the sale of the main house to the Lawrences.

  8. I agree with Mr. Worthington. It's hard to fathom parting with everything, most especially the VDT watercolor and the Cole Porter chair.

  9. Penelope, you are so right about the photography. Even if the clients do not want their house published, the photographic record is invaluable. I once had a renovation project in Highland Park, Dallas, that was completely destroyed soon after completion; there were not even snapshots. Thanks for your comments.

  10. TPoC, we can only hope the treasures found a home with appreciative owners!

  11. Does the Clos still belong to M. de Givenchy? If the Lawrences were renting the place furnished from H d G, it would still have all his lovely things!

    Herts Man

  12. H.M., there was a series of posts about Le Clos on The Blue Rembered Hills blog. Photos of the house including the lovely interiors were shown on his September 22, 2010, post:

  13. If I am not mistaken, the present owner of La Fiorentina is Lucille Heineken (née Cummins), the American-born widow of German beer baron Alfred "Freddy" Heineken, who died in 2002.

  14. It is also possible that the Heineken heir, Charlene Heineken de Carvalho, and her husband, Michel de Carvalho, own La Fiorentina. She inherited the controlling interest in the beer conglomerate when her father died in 2002. (La Fiorentina is listed in various locations as a Heineken property now.)

  15. Aesthete, I know my readers join in my thanks for this ownership information. Your comments are greatly appreciated.


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