|Interior, Liria Palace, Madrid|
Christie's is due to auction a 1921 Art Deco bathroom suite that the family says is so it can 'maintain' its heritage
MADRID The Duchess of Alba (María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba de Tormes, Grandee of Spain), has commissioned Christie's to sell in Paris a bathroom furniture suite that was created specially for the then-Duchess's Liria Palace in 1921 by French designer Armand Albert Rateau. The 17th Duke of Alba, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó, father of the present Duchess (this title, and over 40 more, could and did pass down to female heirs; the prtesent Duchess, though, is only the third woman to hold it), commissioned the suite as a bridal gift to his fiancee María del Rosario de Silva y Gurtubay, according to the Christie's catalogue for the sale.>>>
The House of Alba, one of Europe's oldest aristocratic families, has said in a statement that it is selling the Rateau bathroom "to help maintain its heritage and facilitate the keep of its several properties in Spain, and to accompany new family projects." One of these is an exhibition called The Legacy of the House of Alba, opened last December in Madrid.
The furniture being put to sale, the private property of the present Duchess, "are not part of the historical collection and do not have anything to do with the history of Spain," adds the family.
The sale will include two bronze 'bird' standard lamps valued at between €1.5 and 2 million, about the same valuation as a small table in the same design in black marble and bronze. A white Carrara marble bathtub is valued at between €150,000 and 200,000, while a patina-ed bronze dressing table with a grey marble top is expected to fetch some €700,000. A reclining chaise longue, carved and gilded is up for about half a million euros. Another one in the swan's neck style, also in carved wood and also gilded -at some €200,000- completes the collection of seven pieces that could raise around €8,000,000 for the family coffers, according to Christie's (who do not put it quite like this).
These seven pieces are all that remain of Rateau's 'trilogy' of work that he carried out for the Alba's Liria Palace in Madrid. The other two parts included a bedroom suite and a dressing room, all located in the right wing of the palace that was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and rebuilt in 1945.
It is well known that the family, while wildly wealthy in terms of properties and investments, can often be short of cash. Like the rest of us.