It wasn't as huge as the Yves Saint Laurent sales but the auction of the contents of Gianni Versace's Italian villa (as comprehensively covered by my colleague Jared Paul Stern in January) adds weight to the idea that the art and antiques curated by a person of famous taste have special value. Sotheby's brought in 7.4 million pounds ($10.4 million) from the London sale of the paintings, furniture and objets d'art from Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como. The number handily beat presale estimates of around 2.5 million pounds and all except nine lots were sold.
Like the Saint Laurent sale, the Versace sale was a chance to pick up pieces personally selected by a man of great taste. The two men had different styles but shared a taste for exquisite furnishings and artwork. Top lots included a pair of Italian cherry wood bookcases by Karl Roos that were commissioned by Princess Pauline Borghese, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, for the Library at Palazzo Borghese in Rome in 1814 and sold for 481,000 and 601,000 pounds compared to estimates of around 80,000 and 90,000 pounds.
Mario Tavella, an Italy-based Sotheby's deputy chairman told Bloomberg's Scott Reyburn that some of the bidders had known Gianni and that other wanted pieces because of the connection to the designer. The most expensive lots went to European collectors with the more inexpensive pieces being snapped by Russian clients.
One piece, "Portrait of Major George Maule" by German artist Johann Zoffany was pulled before the auction when a direct descendant of Maule contacted the Art Loss Register and was concerned that it had been stolen years before Versace bought it.
This sale was the last of four Versace sales held by Sotheby's that includes the contents of Versace's Miami and New York homes. Total proceeds exceeded 38 million pounds.