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Hostel fundraising: selling off proceeds from a scandalous marriage

29 April 2015
29 Apr 2015 -

A collection of marbles and paintings amassed by the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland with proceeds from her scandalous marriage are to be sold to finance youth hostels.

A collection of paintings and sculpture from Carbisdale Castle is to come onto the market for the first time in a century, and are said to show a snapshot of the finest tastes of 19th century England. They are to be sold by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, which accepted the castle and its contents as a donation in 1945, and will use the proceeds to improve its accommodation throughout Scotland.

Described as “highly desirable”, the entire collection is said to represent the works most sought-after by art patrons around 1900. The haul, comprised of 17 sculptures, 36 paintings and one 19th century textile, will now be sold at Sotheby’s for an estimated £500,000.

Until recently, it has been housed at Carbisdale Castle, the last castle to be built in Scotland and originally owned by the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland who scandalised Victorian society with her affair with the third Duke. Born Mary Caroline Mitchell and nicknamed Duchess Blair, she eventually married him and was left the majority of the Sutherland inheritance over his children, and later sentenced to six weeks imprisonment for destroying relevant documents.

After the row was settled, the Dowager Duchess used her money to build the castle, stocking it with the finest statues and paintings she could muster. She famously designed the castle around a tower with clocks on three sides only: the missing face, pointing towards Sutherland lands, was said to show she no longer wishes to give the family the time of day.

 In 1945, long after her death, the castle was donated by its then-owner Captain Harold Salveson to the Scottish Youth Hostels AssociationThe castle, nicknamed the Castle of Spite and said to be haunted, was closed in 2010 after suffering frost damage, with its precious contents being moved into storage. They will now be sold to help finance hostels elsewhere in Scotland, in the hopes of encouraging more people to visit.

Among the star pieces include Andromeda by Italian sculptor Pasquale Romanelli, which has an estimate of £120,000, and a Venus and Cupid for £80,000.Christopher Mason, Sotheby’s European sculpture specialist, said: “Encompassing the elegant Neoclassicism of the early part of the century to the fantastical Romanticism of the Belle Époque years, the works on offer shine a light not only on collecting tastes at the height of the British Empire, but also on how sculptors of the period created works of astonishing beauty and grace through their masterful handling of marble.”

Keith Legge, CEO of Scottish Youth Hostels Associations, added: “It has been a privilege for SYHA to have been the custodian of Carbisdale Castle and its contents for the past 70 years enabling our members and guests to experience living in a castle“The proceeds of the sale will be used to sustain SYHA’s diverse youth hostel network of affordable fit-for-purpose accommodation, allowing everyone, but especially young people, to learn and experience what Scotland has to offer.”

The works will be part of the Sotheby’s 19th & 20th Century sculpture auction on May 20, in London.

Source: The Telegraph