Wednesday 22 November 2023

Lot 289

Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, Hungarian / British 1869-1937-  Portrait of Mrs Frederick John...

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Lot 289

Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, 
Hungarian / British 1869-1937- 
Portrait of Mrs Frederick John...

Price Realised: £8,922

Estimate: £8,000 - £12,000

Price realised is hammer price plus fees (31.2% Buyers Premium inclusive of VAT).

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Lot 289


Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, 
Hungarian / British 1869-1937- 

Portrait of Mrs Frederick John Nettlefold, known as The South African Nightingale; 

oil on canvas, signed and dated 'de László / 1931' (lower left), 100.7 x 75 cm. 

By descent in the family of the sitter. 

Private Collection, UK. 

DLA078-0094, letter from de László to F J Nettlefold, 18 July 1929. 
DLA078-0090, letter from F J Nettlefold to de László, 25 October 1929. 
DLA078-0078, letter from FJ Nettlefold to de László, 16 June 1931. 
NPG Album 1931, f. 23: Mrs. F.J. Nettlefold. 
László, Philip de,1931 diary (private collection). 
The de László Archive Trust, 'The Catalogue Raisonné of Works by Philip de László (1869-1937) [online]', no.10330. 

Frederick Nettlefold contacted de László in July 1929 after attending his exhibition at the French Gallery in London. He had particularly admired the dramatic portrait of the Marchioness of Milford Haven, née Countess Nadejda de Torby [de László Archive Trust catalogue no.3491] who had been painted in a dynamic pose with one bare shoulder, and wished his wife to be painted in a similar manner (DLA078-0094, op cit.). 

Mrs Nettlefold was an opera singer who performed under the name Vera de Villiers. Owing to the busy schedules of both artist and sitter it was difficult to find mutually convenient times for the portrait to be completed. The artist recorded in his diary on 1 and 3 April 1931 that he was making preparatory studies, however a preparatory drawing in the collection of a descendent is inscribed '1930 / XII' [111633]. De László began painting in oil on 4 April when he described the sitter as ‘rather rough in appearance…but a great feminine charm about her.’ (László, Philip de, 1931 diary, 4 April entry, op. cit.). The sitter was pregnant at the time of sitting which influenced the composition of the portrait with her hands resting on the table in front of her. According to the artist’s diary there were six further sittings (László, Philip de, 1931 diary, 5, 8, 9, 10, 23, and 25 April entries and 1 May entry, op. cit.). The portrait must have been completed in mid-May as de László wrote to the sitter on 19 May that the paint was not yet dry enough for it to be sent to Paris to be included in his exhibition at the Charpentier Gallery (DLA078-0090, op. cit.). The letter also notes that the picture was framed and glazed by Emile Remy and photographed by Paul Laib [no.5994]. The honorarium for the portrait was £840 and this was paid on 16 June 1931 nearly two years after it was commissioned (DLA078-0078, op cit., The equivalent of approximately £38,500 in 2023). 

The sitter's maiden name was Johanna Véronique Graaff and she was born on 26 September 1891 in South Africa, the daughter of Sir Jacobus Arnoldus Combrinck Graaff (1863-1927) and his wife Susan Theunissen (1881-1952). Graff was a member of the Senate of the Union of South Africa (1910-1927). She married her first husband Dr Pieter Michiel Daneel at an unknown date. As Vera de Villiers, the sitter gained international recognition as a contralto opera singer and performed throughout Britain. In 1925 she married her second husband Frederick John Nettlefold (1867-1949), actor manager and member of the Nettlefold industrial family, in 1925. There were three children of the marriage, Mary (born 1926), Frederick (born 1927) and Dorothy (born 1931). They were divorced in 1945 and she married Albert Coates (1881-1953), English orchestral conductor and composer. The couple moved to South Africa and formed a pioneering opera group there. The sitter was singer director until her husband’s death in 1953. She survived him by twenty years, dying in 1973 and is buried in Cape Town. She is here shown seated half-length, slightly to the left, head turned slightly right and looking to the viewer. She wears a blue and gold brocade stole with cream edge over evening dress, holding a string of green beads in both hands resting on a wooden table in front of her. 

We are grateful to Katherine Field for writing the catalogue entry for this portrait, which will be included in the Philip de László catalogue raisonné, currently presented in progress online: (no.10330).

Buyer's Premium

The buyer shall pay the hammer price together with a premium thereon of 26% up to £20,000 (31.2% inclusive of VAT), 25% from £20,001 - £500,000 (30% inclusive of VAT), 20% from £500,001 thereafter (24% inclusive of VAT). The premium price is subject to VAT at the standard rate.

VAT is not charged on the hammer price unless it is stated that there is 'VAT applicable on the hammer price at the end of the description. Buyer's premium is subject to VAT.

Qualifying living artists and the descendants of artists deceased within the last 70 years are entitled to receive a re-sale royalty each time their work is bought through an auction house or art market professional.

It applies to lots with hammer value over £1,000 as follows:
0 to £50,000 - 4%
£50,000.01 to £200,000 - 3%
£200,000.01 to £350,000 - 1%
£350,000.01 to £500,000 - 0.5%
Exceeding £500,000 - 0.25%
ARR is capped at £12,500

Please note ARR is calculated in euros. Auctioneers will apply current exchange rates.

Export of goods

Buyers intending to export goods should ascertain whether an export licence is required before bidding. Export licences are issued by Arts Council England and application forms can be obtained from its Export Licensing Unit. Details can be found on the ACE website or by phoning ACE on 020 7973 5188. The need for import licences varies from country to country and you should acquaint yourself with all relevant local requirements and provisions before bidding. The refusal of any such licences shall not permit the cancelling of any sale nor allow any delay in making full payment for the lot.

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