27 Sep 2011
avatar Author: Nicky Haslam

Colin Tennant, as the late Lord Glenconner then was, became a legendary figure: the most languid and sardonic of men, tall as a lamp post and dressed even then often in white. I remember first meeting him, perhaps with his uncle Stephen Tennant with whom he shared many characteristics, about the time of Princess Margaret marriage to Tony Armstrong-Jones. Colin had just bought Mustique and gave her a beautiful part of the island to build a house as a wedding present: it seemed generous beyond belief. Luckily, Oliver Messel was on hand as he lived in Barbados, to come and advise on creating this and a dozen or so other beautiful houses. Colin’s own, Beau House, contained many of the things now on sale in Bonhams. His totally idiosyncratic eye accompanied by tart humour, he, along with his beautiful wife Anne, made Mustique a must-go destination. In the mid 80s I remember him coming into my previous showroom in Pimlico and thumbing through references and fabrics and selecting furniture for schemes in Mustique. In the end, as usual, he changed his mind as he so often did, so sadly, I never went to Mustique until much later, after he had transferred his affections to nearby St Lucia.

This sale at Bonhams exemplifies his strange exotic taste, love of the ephemeral and romantic- the most romantic being the silver bed (Lot 73), its trellised head and foot board surmounted by peacocks. But there were precious things too, such as the exquisite celadon Chinese bowl (Lot 24) and the intricately crafted cloisonné incense burner (Lot 161) of the highest Qianlong workmanship.

Fascinating too are many photographs, some possibly by Robert Mapplethorpe, of the astonishing parties and glamorous guests that flocked to Mustique.

Among their friends at the viewing last night were Mustique house owners such as Princess Rupert Loewenstein, Mark and Katie Cecil, Georgie Channon, Chips Channon’s grand-daughter, Brian Alexander who used to be the Chairman of the Mustique company and Colin’s cousin Suzannah Johnston who is determined to bid for the Victorian peeress’s coronet (Lot 16) which belonged to their mutual great grandmother. All these objects displayed Colin’s unique taste and though it’s sad to think of them being dispersed, Colin was in a strange way completely undevoted to possessions, and now, as his vision of Mustique fades into mystique, a new generation can transport these memories back to that Caribbean idyll.

2 Responses to “Island in the Sun”

  1. avatar Gaye Tapp says:

    beautifully written, and there is a touch of the Messel story I requested, not to mention your perfectly brilliant blue at the set you created at Decorex, and the happiest of birthdays to you!

  2. avatar Colette says:

    yes PG – a lot of Messel channelling going on!! And the book just hit the shelves here in UK – i think to launch in US next month. xx

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