At Sotheby’s

Rosemary Hill

Early this month Sotheby’s held a champagne-and-canape viewing for the sale of possessions of the late ‘Debo’, Duchess of Devonshire. The lots were arranged to suggest room sets, with tables laid, sofas positioned by rugs and blown-up photographic backdrops, one showing the dining room of the dower house where the duchess spent her last years. Another by Norman Parkinson shows her in 1952 in the private dining room at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, the seat of the Devonshires of which she was châtelaine for more than half a century. In a dark velvet New Look gown she looks to one side. Behind her is a portrait of Henry VIII, copied from a lost Holbein, at her feet two elegant greyhounds lie asleep, while below Sotheby’s legend reads: ‘Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire: the last of the Mitford sisters’.

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