The Estate of Karen Bidwill

Recently, I had the pleasure of valuing The Estate of Karen Bidwill, which is part of our forthcoming Decorative Arts Auction. I knew immediately that this was a rare and distinguished collection and what I found particularly intriguing was its layered history and provenance. Karen Bidwill spent many years living in London and during this time, she had a long friendship with a gentleman named Nicholas de Watteville. When Nicholas sadly passed, with no immediate family of his own, he left his estate to Karen and one other. Thus, much of the contents of her estate are in turn, from the estate of Nicolas de Watteville.

De Watteville’s grandfather was Claude Andrew Calthrop, an acclaimed 19th century English painter and one of his paintings, Meeting of the Scottish Jacobites, circa 1878, is held in the Tate Collection, London. A number of paintings by Claude Calthrop, passed down to Nicholas from his mother, Hope de Watteville, nee Calthrop, will be offered as part of this estate. The paintings are offered with various articles of provenance supporting the authenticity of the paintings including a scanned copy of an original letter from the National Gallery to Everard Calthrop (the artist’s son) dated 1st July 1909. The letter recognises Everard and his mother’s donation of Meeting of the Scottish Jacobites to the National Collection.

Nicholas also inherited a fine collection of French, Louis and English furniture, also passed down to Karen Bidwill. His mother, Hope Calthrop was married to the prominent Lieutenant Colonel Herman de Watteville. Further provenance includes an article from the English journal Country Life published 20th March 1929. This article provides an insight into the residence of Herman and Hope de Watteville at Kings Head House, Beaconsfield, England. It shows numerous items that now form a large part of the Bidwill estate. The first photograph of the interior shows the Louis XV style poudreuse with what appears to be Cathrop’s painting Brittany field with cattle hanging above it; the Georgian bookcase secretaire sits to the left. In the second photograph the set of Stuart style dining chairs sit in the foreground, the Georgian corner cabinet hangs in the rear left-hand corner and the Georgian bureau in the right-hand corner. Finally, the third photograph shows the pair of Regency bronze and ormolu candlesticks sitting on the mantelpiece, and below on the hearth, slightly obscured the pair of brass firedogs.

Dominic Kavanagh / Decorative Arts Specialist