The collection of a man who saved thousands of artworks from war torn Europe is to be sold at auction in Salisbury on 6th July.
Major Edward ‘Teddy’ Croft-Murray CBE worked as Assistant Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum before the start of the Second World War, then had a brief career in the Admiralty and the War Office before, in 1943, being appointed to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives team. He was stationed primarily in Italy where he assessed the bomb damage caused to important monuments and retrieved art collections stashed away at the start of hostilities. In 1945 he was responsible for the careful removal of treasures stolen from the Abbey at Monte Cassino which had been discovered in an Austrian salt mine.
“Edward Croft-Murray spent several years handling and caring for important works of art and other objects and it is clear from his collection that this informed his eye as a collector himself,” said Mark Yuan-Richards, who is handling the sale of the Major’s collection at Woolley and Wallis auctioneers. “There is real diversity among the pieces we are selling, from more traditional items of furniture to more decorative pieces, and unusual objects that have clearly caught his eye over the years.”
Major Croft Murray died suddenly in 1980 and was survived by his widow, Jill. His collection of prints was donated by her to the British Museum, for whom he worked for almost 20 years from 1954 as Keeper of Prints and Drawings, during which time he co-authored a number of books on the museum’s own collection.
A number of the pieces being sold by Woolley and Wallis were inherited from Croft-Murray’s uncle (also Edward) from his house, Perivale, in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, and come to the market for the first time in over a century. Edward’s father, Bernard, died when his son was just 7 years old after being gored by a rhino.
“One of the highlights of the collection is a mahogany serpentine chest by Gillows (lot 278), which is dated 1789 and can be traced right back in the family on his mother’s side,” explained Yuan-Richards. “It was believed to have been made for William Rawlinson for Ancoats Hall in Manchester and this is almost certainly the first time it has left the family in over 230 years.”
Other notable pieces include an Italian marble bust from the late 17th or early 18th century (lot 342). For many years a feature of the Croft-Murray’s garden, it appears with a starting price of £2,000. A George II mahogany dining table (lot 252) is expected to fetch in the region of £5,000, while an unusual 18th century painted pine dummy board of a maid holding a broom (lot 271) carries a pre-sale estimate of £1,500-2,000.
The collection is being sold in Salisbury as part of the Furniture and Works of Art auction on 6th July.