A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Monday, July 18, 2011

What We're Perusing: Sotheby's Auction Books - The Duke & Duchess of Windsor Collections

          In September 1997, Sotheby's hosted the sale of the contents of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor's former residence in Paris. The size of the collection was staggering - over three thousand lots were auctioned, making up a total of eighteen sessions spread over 9 days from September 11-19, 1997. The whole of the galleries at Sotheby's, New York was devoted to an exhibition of the collection, which up until that time had never been seen before in public.

          One could spend hours looking through the two large auction books produced by Sotheby's. Items for sale included paintings, drawings, prints, bronzes, furniture, ceramics, glass, carpets, textiles, silver and vertu, clocks, watches, coins, medals, books, private papers, and photographs. Of particular interest to me was the Duke's wardrobe of clothes and accessories. While looking at the photos, I was particularly struck by two things. The first is the variety of fabrics, textures, and colors on display in the Duke's cupboard/closet.

"The Duke's wardrobe cupboard arrayed with his signature lounge and
sporting check suits, patterned ties and orderly stacks of crisply starched shirts."
- The Private Collection, Session XVI, Thursday, Sept. 18, 1997

The Duke's town clothes, overcoat, and sports clothes swatch boxes, circa 1960.
"Because the Duke spent so much time traveling between his various homes in New York, Paris, and his French country retreat, he used these swatch boxes to remind him of the locations of items from his extensive wardrobe. . . The swatch boxes show that, circa 1960, the Duke owned approximately fifteen evening suits and over fifty-five lounge suits."
- The Private Collection, Session XVI, Thursday, Sept. 18, 1997

Lot 2872: Prince of Wales Tweed Sports Suit, London, 1923
" . . .comprising a jacket and stalking trousers of thick, tough oatmeal and maroon wool with bright blue banding woven in the Glenurqhart check, the singlebreasted jacket by Scholte, London . . .the unlabeled Forster & Sons stalking trousers altered from plus fours, probably in the mid 1930s when the zip fly was inserted . . ."

- The Private Collection, Session XVI, Thursday, Sept. 18, 1997

          The second thing that struck me about the wardrobe is the quality of the Duke's British and American-made clothing - some pieces seem to have been made for the Duke in the 1920s and he was apparently still wearing these items into the 1970s (its also amazing that the Duke maintained the same physique for almost 50 years). The Duchess probably said it best when she stated, "For some time after our marriage I was puzzled by the fact that while he was the acknowledged leader of men's fashion, he rarely bought a new suit."

Lots 2824, 2825, 2827: Woven Cotton Handkerchiefs with the cypher of the Duke of Windsor, English, circa 1940s-1950s. Note the fabric in the bottom right - it seems to have been repaired on multiple occasions, perhaps lending some credence to the Duchess' comment.

Lot 2845: A group of English and American footwear, circa 1941-1955,
comprising, among others, a pair of Peal & Co. correspondent leather loafers.
The photo details the shoe cupboard in the Duke of Windsor's dressing room.

Lot 2858: Slubbed silk single breasted summer suit by Emilio Lupori, 1949.
"The Duke of Windsor arriving in his Riviera resort suit complete
with fashionable Panama hat, correspondent shoes, and pug, early 1950s."

          This is really just a small glimpse of some of the wonderful photographs and images displayed in the auction books (I'll try to post additional images from the books from time to time). For anyone interested in the history of men's style or history in general, this three-volume set is definitely worth the investment.

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