Weekend: ANTIQUES & COLLECTING: Face Up to the Great and Good; Sally Hoban Previews the First Ever International Auction House Sale Entirely Devoted to Portraits

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Byline: Sally Hoban

The most extensive private collection of historical portraits to come to auction in recent years will be sold in October at Bonhams auctioneers in London.

The collection features images of Britain's most respected writers, artists musicians and philosophers and forms the first ever sale entirely devoted to portraits at an international auction house.

Paintings, busts, prints, medallions, pencil sketches, photographs and other media are all represented in the auction.

Manuscript expert and collector Roy Davids has compiled the images collection over the last 30 years, and it contains almost 300 portraits. A number of pieces were noted for their artistic strength and importance at the British Library's Millennium Exhibition, where they were last exhibited.

Perhaps the most intimate image included in the sale is a pen and ink sketch of the young Ted Hughes by his wife, fellow poet Sylvia Plath.

The pair were one of the most iconic literary and romantic couples of the 20th century and their tempestuous story was told in the 2003 film Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.

The sketch on sale here is believed to be the only portrait drawn of Ted by Sylvia. Sketched with the gripping immediacy and adoration of a love note, this image exemplifies Oscar Wilde's belief that "every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter."

Plath's sketch shows the former Poet Laureate sitting and writing, wearing a dinner jacket and bow-tie. Hughes recalled that the portrait was drawn at Cambridge in the early days of his marriage to Sylvia.

The small portrait is drawn on faintly lined paper and is inscribed by the sitter 'Portrait of me, made by Sylvia Plath, circa 1957, Ted Hughes.' It was a gift from the poet to Roy Davids, who was his close friend until Ted's death in 1998.

The sketch carries a pre-sale estimate of pounds 15,000 - pounds 20,000, but with the current popularity of Ted and Sylvia it stands a good chance of selling for a higher price.

Facial portraits on canvas, paper, bronze or film, have always been popular.

While Roy Davids follows in the footsteps of the Kings of Alexandria and Pergamon in having assembled an extensive collection of portraits of illustrious creators and thinkers (as opposed to those focused on bloodline and heritage), his personal interest in such images has been paralleled in the public's increasing interest in London's National Portrait Gallery.

Sir Roy Strong, formerly Director of the National Portrait Gallery and of the Victoria & Albert Museum, said: 'The Davids' collection is extraordinary. …