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Art collection of Norfolk diplomat Sir Richard Parsons up for sale

Sir Richard Parsons, whose art collection is coming up for sale  Picture: Bob Hobbs

Sir Richard Parsons, whose art collection is coming up for sale Picture: Bob Hobbs

Artworks from the collection of a distinguished diplomat are going under the hammer.

The Master of San Miniato   Picture: CheffinsThe Master of San Miniato Picture: Cheffins

Sir Richard Parsons was a well-known career diplomat and crime fiction writer, who throughout the 1970s and 1980s was successively British ambassador to Hungary, Spain and Sweden. His books include the Moon Pool, the Den of the Basilisk, Howling at the Moon, and under his pseudonym, John Haythorne, Mandrake in Granada and Mandrake in the Monastery. Sir Richard retired to Whittington, near Downham Market, in 1987, where he focused on his writing, before passing away in 2016.

His collection includes a series of important paintings, with the headline lot being a 15th century altarpiece, depicting The Madonna and Child, by the Master of San Miniato. Dating back to 1460 – 1480, this altarpiece is a new discovery by the artist who painted a number of altarpieces in the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte in Florence. It will be the first time that this picture has been offered on the open market since the 19th Century. It is expected to fetch £20,000 - £30,000.

The collection includes a miniature by Isaac Oliver of Thomas Fones, Mayor of Plymouth painted in 1620, the year the Mayflower sailed. The miniature is estimated to make between £3,000 and £5,000. In addition, there are seven watercolours by the artist Alfred Parsons, who was Sir Richard’s grandfather.

Sarah Flynn, Head of Paintings at auctioneers Cheffins, which is handling the sale, said: “As well as the Master of San Miniato altarpiece, the Isaac Oliver miniature is also an important piece within the collection. Oliver was a master of his trade and these items are rarely seen on the open market today.”

The Thomas Fownes nminiature  Picture: CheffinsThe Thomas Fownes nminiature Picture: Cheffins

The sale also includes Other notable lots are a series of portraits, including one of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Queen Elizabeth I’s advisor and builder of Burghley House, Stamford which dates back to 1597. This has an estimate of £10,000 - £15,000. There is also an original portrait of Oliver Cromwell, by Robert Walker, which is thought to make between £1,000 and £1,500.

The sale takes place on Wednesday, November 28 and Thursday, November 29 (11am) at Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK, CB1 7EA. Viewing is on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

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