Edinburgh auction of dance and yoga icon’s private art and antique collection

One of the largest and most impressive private collections of art and antiques to come to auction in Scotland, from the Edinburgh home of a late Scottish dancing icon, is expected to fetch more than £200,000 this weeknote-0.

Monday, 13th September 2021, 4:55 am
William Mowat-Thomson, who had a host of celebrity friends
William Mowat-Thomson, who had a host of celebrity friends

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.The "unrivalled" collection was amassed by William Mowat-Thomson,who launched Scotland's first full-time dance course as well as the Scottish Yoga Centre and whose venues and home welcomed the likes of David Bowie, Steven Berkoff and Barbara Windsor.

Friends admired his eye for spotting and procuring items of beauty and referred to his house at St Bernard’s Crescent in Edinburgh as "the V&A".

When he passed away aged 86 in October 2019 he had built a collection of furniture, art, books, porcelain, silver and objets d’art described by experts as "unrivalled in breadth and vibrancy".

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William Mowat-Thomson collected a vast array of objects, furniture and artwork

Nearly 1000 objects, ranging from Scottish paintings to French baroque furniture and elaborately decorated clocks to marble busts of Greek and Roman gods will go under the hammer at McTear's auction house in Glasgow over two days on Friday and Saturday.

Leading lots in ‘The contents of 19 St Bernard’s Crescent, Edinburgh, the private collection of William Mowat-Thomson’ include a 1913 oil painting of Colonsay by Edinburgh artist William Marshall Brown; and a bust of Apollo, the god of archery, music and dance, each estimated at £4000-6000.

Other highlights include a 19th century Italian oil painting of The Madonna Della Salla in a Florentine giltwood frame, estimated at £2000-3000; and a 19th century Japanese lacquered ebonised and shibayama inlaid cabinet, valued at £1500-2000.

Mowat-Thomson in his dance studio and in the early days of his career

Unusual objects in the extraordinary collection include an Imperial Russian officer's dress sword, expected to attract bids of £100-200; an Art Deco porcelain figure of a belly dancer valued at £50-100; a pair of Victorian brown leather riding boots, estimated at £40-60; and a Victorian brass doorstop in the shape of a dolphin, which could make £30-50.

Elsewhere, Chinese teapots; George III wine glasses; a collection of mother of pearl card cases; and a late Victorian oak solitaire board could rake in hundreds of pounds each, while a late 19th century walnut wig stand, complete with a long wig tied with a ribbon might fetch just £30-50.

Collectors interested in purchasing objects from the collection will be able to view the lots ahead of the sale at McTear's in Glasgow, from Tuesday.Mowat-Thomson was an iconic figure in Scottish dance, whose pioneering Theatre School of Dance and Drama in the capital’s Shandwick Place and later in Stockbridge provided professional training for dancers across Scotland.McTear’s Director, Magda Ketterer, said: "This an astounding collection of unrivalled breadth and vibrancy that was lovingly created over a lifetime of collecting.”

It's all going under the hammer this week

Okeney-born Mowat-Thomson developed a love for acting, singing and dancing and moved to Edinburgh where he played piano to pay for dance classes at the Scottish Ballet School.

He later bought a property in Stockbridge, which he transformed into the Theatre School of Dance and Drama.

Former pupils recall spottingDavid Bowie, actor Steven Berkoff, and the late dancer, actor and mime artist Lindsay Kemp, who mentored Bowie and Kate Bush and helped inspire Ziggy Stardust.

Mowat-Thomson would rent out his basement flat to touring performers such as Barbara Windsor and Christopher Biggins.

A stunning piece set to come up for auction

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