Historic portraits from Little Barford Manor go up for auction

Peter Lely portrait
Peter Lely portrait

Two portraits by a 17th century artist to royalty, from an estate at Little Barford, are being auctioned this week.

The sale in Cambridge features a pair of paintings by Sir Peter Lely, principal painter to King Charles II, and were previously undocumented.

Peter Lely portrait

Peter Lely portrait

The portraits depict William Alington, 3rd Lord Alington, MP for Cambridge and Constable of the Tower of London and his wife, Lady Diana Alington, daughter of the Duke of Bedford.

Cheffins’ fine art sale will include over 100 lots of paintings and furniture from the historic Alington Estate of Little Barford Manor, and will be among 770 lots of furniture, artwork, jewellery and collector’s items available on September 13 and 14.

The two portraits by Lely once adorned Horseheath Hall, in Cambridgeshire, but when the family sold the house the works were moved to another of their homes, Little Barford Manor, where they have been for the last 300 years.

Sarah Flynn, head of paintings at Cheffins, said: “It is always exciting to come across works by one of the country’s great masters of portraiture.

“Sir Peter Lely (1618 - 1680), was appointed principal painter to the court of King Charles II and notable sitters included Nell Gwynn, the famous mistress of Charles II, and the ‘Windsor Beauties’, 10 aristocratic ladies from the Royal Court and can now be seen hanging at Hampton Court Palace.

“Lely was the most fashionable and influential painter of his time and his works provide us with a clear insight into the Royal Court of Restoration Britain. His work hangs in some of the world’s key art institutions including the National Portrait Gallery and The Tate.

“Many, as with this pair of portraits, have remained in original family ownership since they were originally painted. The important pair of paintings now being offered for sale were probably executed in celebration of the marriage of Lord Alington to Lady Diana, daughter of the Duke of Bedford in 1675 and are typical of Lely’s baroque style. However this wasn’t Lady Diana’s first sitting for Lely, an earlier and equally beautiful portrait still hangs in her ancestral home of Woburn Abbey.”

The portraits have an estimate of £12,000 - £18,000 for the pair. They have been authenticated by an expert at the National Portrait Gallery. Also within the Little Barford Manor Collection are another 30 paintings, including a 17th century portrait of Charles II by followers of Sir Anthony van Dyck and the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller.

There are a further 150 lots of furniture in the Little Barford Manor collection including a Grand Tour library table which has a marble inlay depicting classical figures, copied from the murals of Cicero’s villa in Pompeii, and a George II Irish mahogany table, these have estimates of £5,000 - £8,000 and £3,000 - £5,000 respectively.

Other lots of note in the sale, from other estates, include a rare 19th century Ottoman carved Kavukluk, or turban stand, which has an estimate of £300 - £500 and two highly sought-after sketches and a watercolour by famous artist, William Russell Flint. There is also a painting of a pair of ducks by widely-collected German artist Alexander Koester which has an estimate of £5,000 - £8,000.

Leading the jewellery section, an Art Deco Boucheron brooch set with diamonds, jade and black onyx is set to excite the market. It has an estimate of £5,000 - £7,000. Similarly, a rare diamond, emerald and ruby star brooch of The Order of St Patrick will be popular with collectors and has an estimate of £1,500 - £2,500.

The auction is from 11am on both days, with viewing on today (Tuesday 12th September) 10am – 6pm

The auction is at Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, CB1 7EA.