LONDON — Dame Edith Sitwell’s feathery hats, bohemian garb and distinctive jewels and gemstones will go under the hammer in November as part of a sale of personal effects, furnishings and interior objects from her aristocratic family home in Northamptonshire, England.
Sitwell, the British poet, historian and critic, hailed from a literary family and her circle included some of the 20th century’s greatest creatives such as Siegfried Sassoon, Cecil Beaton, Aubrey Beardsley, Rex Whistler and Evelyn Waugh. The sale gathers many of the colorful jewels and accessories given to her by family and friends, as well as her own flamboyant wardrobe pieces.
The sale, Weston Hall and the Sitwells: A Family Legacy, will take place on Nov. 16 and focuses on items from Weston Hall, one of the Sitwell’s homes where the family lived for more than 100 years. It will take place as a live auction at Dreweatts’ headquarters near Newbury, England and includes artworks, furniture, ceramics, silver, decorative arts and books from an extensive library. Until recently, they were stored in a maze of attics and rooms at Weston Hall, some of which were untouched for years, Dreweatts said.
Sitwell, who lived from 1887 to 1964, was a well-known — and outspoken — literary figure in Britain in the early 1920s and ’30s. Six feet tall and an eccentric dresser, she made for a colorful guest at many a country house party and city salon.
Items to be sold include a purple velvet costume in the loose medieval style, “possibly worn” by the young Edith at one of the country house parties, as well as a series of giant hats. An ostrich feather-trimmed hat that dates from the 1960s is being offered alongside a print by Cecil Beaton of Sitwell wearing the design.
Treasures from Sitwell’s jewelry box include a pair of silver gilt Indian bangles featuring a floral decoration and a set of 19th-century Chinese semiprecious stone brooches, a gift from her brother Sir Osbert Sitwell, a poet, novelist and journalist.
The silk brocade gown in black, pink and green that Sitwell wore to the premiere of the musical “My Fair Lady” in 1965 is also among the lots, as is a patterned velvet tunic and a green silk and gilt metal brocade evening cape.
Joe Robinson, head of House Sales and Private Collections at Dreweatts, described Sitwell as a woman “with a cast-iron integrity in her writing and a definite perception of self. This carried through to what she wore and the jewelry she chose, echoing what she believed to be her relationship with distant Plantagenet ancestors.”
The Plantagenet family ruled England from 1154 to 1485, and their last king was Richard III.
Sitwell never married, but was close to the Russian painter, set and costume designer Pavel Tchelitchew, whom she met through Gertrude Stein in Paris in the 1920s.
Tchelitchew made nine portraits of Sitwell during her lifetime, and one of them, done in Indian ink and called Edith Sitwell Seated is included in the sale with an estimate ranging between 5,000 pounds and 7,000 pounds.
A fan adorned with bullfighters painted by Tchelitchew for Sitwell is estimated to fetch between 3,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Sitwell family.