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Gianni Versace's collection of lavish possessions to be auctioned off

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(13 Mar 2009) STORYVersace. Responsible for that dress, worn by Liz Hurley. A huge favourite among big name stars like Madonna, Elton John, and the late Princess Diana.And the darling of the super-models. Gianni Versace - the man behind the label - was a prince of the fashion world, and a mainstay at shows in Paris, Milan, London and New York. But in July 1997 the life of the popular designer was cut short. The 50-year old was gunned down in front of his Miami Beach Villa. Now furniture, sculptures and works of art from the last of his four villas are to be auctioned off. Villa Fontanelle overlooks Lake Como in Italy It was described by Versace as "the house that really belongs to me, reflecting a mirror image of all that I am." It's an image that Sotherby's has painstakingly recreated in their New Bond Street gallery. Mario Tavella, Deputy Chairman for Sotherby's, Europe, worked with Versace on several occasions and visited the villa many times. He describes Versace as a very kind man with a great sense of style and a great eye both for works of art and interior design. He says the villa is a "blissful combination of art and nature" but that it's warm rather than intimidating, and was very obviously used as a family home. Signs of Versace's love of all things neo-classical are everywhere. This was a man who slept with a Pelagi above his bed. According to Tavella, the late designer's obsession with neo-classic art stemmed from his southern Italian roots. Many parts of southern Italy and Sicily were once Greek colonies. Highlights of the collection include a pair of casts of Canova's wrestlers. The life size statues of Creugas and Damoxenos were placed in the centre of Versace's bedroom. Tavella describes this as genius: "The presence of these two big fighters, wrestlers was so over-whelming. Everybody else would have put these statues in a hall, like in any great English country house. He put them in the middle of the bedroom," he says. But the item that has got the art world really excited is a portrait by Johann Zoffany of Major George Maule. The 18th century painter was a great favourite with the royal family of George III. The work is the only known portrait from a group of four that were painted during the artist's visit to Madras, India in 1783. Sotherby UK's David Moore-Gwyn, says it's an exciting find. Zoffany was one of the most important portrait painters in England in the eighteenth century, and the most important British artist to go to India. The range of items in the collection is vast - from busts expected to fetch between ?800 - ?1200 ($900 - $1350) to an imposing pair of Karl Roos bookcases expected to fetch between ?60,000 and ?120,000. The auction is expected to raise ?2 million (just under $3 million USD). It's a figure that could be deemed small fry if compared to the recent auction of Yves Saint Laurent's collection in Paris. That included originals from Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian and raised ?333 million ($458 million USD). Tavella reminds us that Versace's life was cut short. "Who knows what we would have collected in his fifties, sixties or seventies?" he says. The Lake Como collection will be auctioned off on Wednesday 18 March at Sotherby's in London.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 599075 27733d1233c493dc7757dd8ebaf4301c (HZ) UK Versace United Kingdom Western Europe London England Milan Italy Paris France Mario Barrett Madonna Princess Diana Giorgio Armani Naomi Campbell Kate Moss Gianni Versace Elton John Claudia Schiffer Yves Saint Laurent Lifestyle Sports Arts and entertainment
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