We enjoy a terrific reputation for dealing in fine art, perhaps because of the incredible pool of this type of
thing in Tampa Bay. An oft-asked question is “What was the most memorable item you ever bought?” There are many — but the most memorable would be the amazing story of Lady Lee of Fareham and her sister Faith, and the contents of the 500-year-old Chequers estate that ended up in a crowded condominium in Hernando County, Florida.
As a child, Ruth Moore was raised in New York, and summered in her father’s Maine estate, Far From the Wolf. There, Ruth met dignitaries, authors and power brokers. Her father, J. Godfrey Moore, a Wall Street and railroad baron who made millions, knew everyone and successfully sued the US government to
stop the income tax (until 1919).
Moore passed away at 51, and his daughters inherited his fortune. It was not unusual for wealthy young women of the day to find themselves a husband and a title. Ruth Moore did just that. Ruth married a young Englishman who had visited her in her youth at Far from the Wolf — Arthur Lee — and bought Chequers, the former home of royalty and the Oliver Cromwell family.
Ruth and Faith pooled their money to pull it off. Ruth became known as Lady Lee of Fareham and owner of the historical silver, clocks and decorative arts that were housed at Chequers. In addition, she sat for portraits by famed society painter Philip Alexius de László (as did Faith).
A few years later, Ruth got into some tax trouble and gave Chequers to the British government, where it is maintained today as the summer home for the prime minister. As is the British custom, upon departing,
Lady Lee was allowed to take a large amount of personal property. She chose iconic artwork, antique
tapestries, grandfather clocks, many paintings and a hoard of silver items — some bearing Cromwell’s coat of arms. Childless and leaving no heirs, she passed away in 1966 as Viscountess Lee of Fareham.
A relative retired here and we handled the estate. Pictured are two items from the estate. A de László painting of Faith Moore (we paid $20,000 and netted a $5,000 profit); and a small reproduction of the same woman (now “Lady Lee,” the only piece we kept; value: minimal).
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have trusted us to liquidate fine art and antiques.
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