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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Vivien Leigh collectibles up for sale in landmark auction 

Sotheby’s London will offer 250 lots from the Gone With the Wind actress's estate in September, with a preview exhibition taking place between July 11 and August 11 

A Vivien Leigh photograph by Cecil Beaton. Courtesy Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive
A Vivien Leigh photograph by Cecil Beaton. Courtesy Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive

With Scarlett O’Hara, the tempestuous heroine of Gone With the Wind, British actress Vivien Leigh gained legendary status in Hollywood and won the hearts of cinephiles across the world. The actress and her husband, Laurence Oliver were Britain’s original sweethearts – a golden couple with a passionate love story that ultimately ended in tragedy when she was diagnosed with unchecked bipolar disorder.

Lesser known facts about Leigh are that she was an art collector and a patron of Modern British artists; and her fondness for entertaining and love for interior design matched her appreciation for books and reading. As such, Leigh was a passionate collector, who picked up an assortment of pieces that caught her fancy, to display them in the city and country homes she shared with Oliver.

“Vivien approached the decoration of her homes as if she were designing a set, incorporating influences and inspiration from a life spent on screen and on stage,” says Harry Dalmeny, chairman, Sotheby’s UK. “These houses were an extension of the theatrical space, with the medieval Notley Abbey looking positively Shakespearean.”

Sotheby’s London has just announced that it will offer 250 lots from Leigh’s collection on September 26, with a preview exhibition taking place between July 11 and August 11. The sale will take place at the auction house’s New Bond Street premises.

Passed down through Leigh’s family, the auction comprises paintings, jewellery, books, furniture, porcelain and other objets d’art and couture. Estimated bids range from £100 to £100,000 (Dh475 to Dh474,000). Some of the perceived favourites for Leigh’s fans and memorabilia collectors include: Leigh’s personal copy of Gone with the Wind, given to her by the author Margaret Mitchell; and her wig from A Streetcar Named Desire, inscribed with her name.

Vintage fashion collectors can bid on a pink evening dress by Victor Stiebel; and a large mid-19th-century diamond bow brooch, among other pieces, while those interested in painting and portraiture can look out for Leigh’s 1942 portrait by Welsh artist Augustus John; and an artwork of the couple’s first home Durham Cottage, by the New Zealand-based graphic designer Felix Kelly.

Leigh's diamond bow brooch
Leigh's diamond bow brooch

“We’re all guilty of confusing our favourite actresses with the heroines they portray, of blurring Vivien’s identity with that of Scarlett O’Hara or Blanche DuBois [from A Streetcar Named Desire]. But, behind the guise of the most glamorous and talked-about woman of her age we find a fine art collector, patron, even a book worm, who was the intellectual equal of the literati, artists and aesthetes she counted among her coterie,” says Dalmeny. “Her private collection does not disappoint. Fifty years on from her death, this sale opens the door into Vivien’s private world.”