AUCTIONS – Commissioned Cartier brooches for Lady Courtauld at Eltham Palace come to auction


Two Cartier brooches, specially-commissioned and designed for Lady Courtauld (1883-1973) and presented to her by her husband, Sir Stephen Courtauld (1883-1967), a member of the Courtauld textile family and younger brother of the founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art, will head to auction at Dreweatts in June, 2024.

The couple were known for their philanthropic endeavours and adventurous spirits, as well as their contributions to cultural and educational causes, and for  their donations to organisations promoting racial equality.

They met while skiing in the Alps in 1919 and married in 1923, with Stephen describing Lady Courtauld as “the sun that melted his cold exterior.”  

While Sir Stephen was reserved and academic, Lady Courtauld was outgoing and rather eccentric (she kept a pet Lemur named Mah Jong!).

In 1933, the couple took a 99-year lease from the Crown on Eltham Palace in Southeast London and would leave a positive and lasting legacy on the property.

It had a long history, closely connected to royalty, with additions such as the great hall during Edward IV’s reign in the 15th century and a decline into disrepair during Henry VIII’s reign.

It was in this dilapidated state that the Courtaulds moved in and set about restoring it to its former glory.

They appointed the architectural firm Seely & Paget to restore the hall and create a contemporary home attached to it.

The architects added a minstrel’s gallery and a timber screen to the hall. They then produced an innovative design for the main house, which was inspired by Christopher Wren’s work at Hampton Court Palace and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Their modern home was decorated internally in the Art Deco style. The entrance hall was created by Swedish designer Rolf Engströmer (1892-1970) and featured a glazed dome to allow light to stream in.

The dining room, drawing room and Lady Courtauld’s circular bedroom and adjoining bathroom, were the work of the Italian designer Piero Malacrida de Saint-August (1889-1983) and Seely and Paget designed many of the bedrooms.

Lady Courtauld’s pet Lemur Mah Jong was given his own room on the upper floor of the house that had a hatch to the downstairs flower room, enabling him to have the run of the house!

The Courtaulds were passionate gardeners and also set about redesigning and bringing back to life the gardens.

The creation of the new house and the restoration of the historically important palace inspired the design of the two brooches created for Lady Courtauld and reflected their sympathetic, yet modern-day approach to design.

Commissioned from Cartier in December 1934, they were specifically made by Cartier using the stained-glass window designs by the English artist George Kruger Gray (1880-1943), which were installed at Eltham Palace in 1936 and can still be seen in the Great Hall. 

AUCTIONS – Commissioned Cartier brooches for Lady Courtauld at Eltham Palace come to auction

Image courtesy of Dreweatts

One of the brooches is designed as a falcon in a fetterlock – relating to the heraldic badge used by King Edward IV and the first Duke of York, Edmund Langley, who used the falcon of the Plantagenets in a golden fetterlock.

It was also later used by his grandson Richard of York, who displayed the fetterlock opened.

The falcon is pavé set with single cut diamonds, with the background half set with a cross hatched pink tourmaline and the other half with a cross hatched sapphire.

The brooch is signed Cartier London and was later adapted to include a removable brooch fitting.

The second brooch is also in the form of an Edward IV cypher with the white rose of York known as the ‘rose en soleil’ on the starburst of Richard II.

The white Tudor rose is set with pavé single cut diamonds with a cross hatched citrine centre.

The sunburst surround is half set with kite shaped sapphires and the other half with kite shaped pink tourmalines. The pair carries an estimate of £15,000-£20,000 (lot 119). 

Commenting on the brooches, Charlotte Peel, Head of Jewellery at Dreweatts, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be offering this pair of unique brooches commissioned from Cartier London in 1936. The incredible provenance combined with the fascinating history of their original owners and the stained-glass windows and armorials that inspired them, make them a truly rare and collectible piece.” 

The pair will be offered in Dreweatts Fine Jewellery, Silver, Watches and Objects of Vertu on June 18, 2024. To browse the catalogue and find out more about the sale, please go to website and scroll down the page: