Devonshire Sells Raphael to Keep Castle

This Raphael drawing may set a record in a Sotheby’s auction estimated to make more than $41 million for an English aristocrat.

Savvy art collectors of ArtKabinett social network will recognize the famous seller as none other than Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire.

Cavendish is raising money to preserve his home, Chatsworth, the astounding baroque palace in Derbyshire that his ancestors began building in 1687.

He is selling the Raphael with a price forecast of £10 million ($15.9 million) to £15 million.

The sketch is included in a Dec. 5 London auction of Old Master paintings and drawings, Sotheby’s said today in an e- mailed release.

“The sale of these works which our family has long cared for will now benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections,” the 12th Duke of Devonshire, who is deputy chairman of Sotheby’s, said in the e-mail.

Museum-quality works by the world’s most famous artists are fetching higher prices as new buyers enter the market and rich collectors concentrate their investments on the rarest trophies. Dealers are looking to the best quality works to set records.

This latest piece by Raffaello Sanzio, called Raphael (1483-1520), to be offered at auction is a study for one of the figures in “The Transfiguration,” a much-admired late painting now in the Vatican Museum, Rome.

“Auxiliary Cartoon for the Head of a Young Apostle,” drawn in black chalk, was acquired 300 years ago by William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, and kept in the family collection at Chatsworth, Derbyshire.

In December 2009, Raphael’s black chalk “Head of a Muse” sold for 29.2 million pounds ($47.6 million at the time) at Christie’s International, setting an auction record for a work on paper.

It was bought on the telephone, dealers said, by the U.S.-based collector Leon Black, chief executive of Apollo Global Management LLC and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He was the successful bidder of Munch's "The Scream" -- now the world's most expensive private painting (see AK Files: 14 July 2012).

Expensive Home Maintenance

The Trustees of the Chatsworth and Bolton Abbey Estates have to maintain and restore about 300 listed buildings.

Faced with similar costs, the 11th Duke of Devonshire sold a group of drawings from Chatsworth at Christie’s in 1984. These included Raphael’s red chalk “Head and Hand of an Apostle,” which sold for 5.3 million pounds, then a record for an Old Master drawing at auction.

“Living at Chatsworth is a very expensive business,” the 11th Duke said after Christie’s 1984 auction. “It is the first time that any work of art has been sold from Chatsworth for a purpose other than paying taxes. I deeply regret it.”

Early 20th Century

During much if the 20th century, it was not unusual for the Cavendish household to sell off various possessions to pay for expenses:

In 1912 the family sold twenty-five books printed by William Caxton and a collection of 1,347 volumes of plays acquired by the 6th Duke, including four Shakespeare folios and thirty-nine Shakespeare quartos, to the Huntington Library in California.

Tens of thousands of acres of land in Somerset, Sussex and Derbyshire were also sold during, and immediately after, World War I.

In 1920 the family's London mansion, Devonshire House, which occupied a 3 acres (12,000 m2) site on Piccadilly, was sold to developers and demolished.

Much of the contents of Devonshire House was moved to Chatsworth and a much smaller house at 2 Carlton Gardens near The Mall was acquired.

The Great Conservatory in the garden at Chatsworth was demolished as it needed ten men to run it, huge quantities of coal to heat it, and all the plants had died during the war when no coal had been available for non-essential purposes.

To further reduce running costs, there was also talk of pulling down the 6th Duke's north wing, which was then regarded as having no aesthetic or historical value, but nothing came of it.

Contemporary Liquidations

The modern history of Chatsworth begins in 1950. The family had not yet moved back after the war and, although the 10th Duke had transferred his assets to his son during his lifetime in the hope of avoiding death duties, he died a few weeks too early for the lifetime exemption to apply, and tax was charged at 80% on the whole estate.

The 11the Duke sold tens of thousands of acres of land, transferred Hardwick Hall to the National Trust in lieu of tax, and sold some major works of art from Chatsworth.

The effect of the death duties was mitigated to some extent by the historically low value of art during the post-war years and the increase in land values, subsequent to 1950, during the post-war agricultural revival, and, on the face of it, the losses were considerably less than 80% in terms of physical assets.

In Derbyshire 35,000 acres (140 km2) were retained out of 83,000 acres (340 km2).

The Bolton Abbey estate in Yorkshire and the Lismore Castle estate in Ireland remained in the family. Nonetheless, it took seventeen years to complete negotiations with the Inland Revenue, interest being due in the meantime.

The Chatsworth Estate is now managed by the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement, which was established in 1946.

Renovations by 12th Duke

In 2004, Peregrine Cavendish became the 12th Duke of Devonshire and inherited Chatsworth, amongst other treasures.

When he first moved in, he initiated a modest bit of rewiring that led to a complete replacement of the heating, water and security systems. This led to a bit of redecorating and redisplaying in both the public and private of the building.

In the end, the house received the biggest facelift since the 1830's, hence the need to pay off some of those bills.