Diary – June 20, 1994


Sotheby’s will defiantly ignore controversy over this painting by David Bomberg (1890-1957), Plazuela de la Paz, Ronda, Spain 1935, when they auction it tomorrow. There is a view,
acknowledged publicly by Christie’s in 1990, that it is upside-down and not a Spanish street scene at all.

According to artists Clare and Clive Randall, long-time Bomberg fans, the painting – turned the other way – bears a remarkable resemblance to a Bomberg drawing: Underground Bomb Store, Burton-on-Trent,1942, hanging in the RAF museum at Hendon.

‘It looks totally dissimilar to the various versions of the Plazuela theme that he painted,’ explains Mrs Randall, adding: ‘it may not be easy to understand some of Bomberg’s pictures, but every one is precise in its own way.’

Four years ago she convinced Graham Southern of Christie’s sufficiently to ensure that there was a public announcement explaining the dilemma just as the picture was auctioned. Perhaps it was because of this, however, that the picture failed to sell. Now Sotheby’s hope it will go for pounds 20,000-pounds 30,000. . .which could explain the reluctance of expert Susanna Pollen to discuss her reasons for ignoring the debate.

More matters for the young groupies in Tory Central Office – known, as I explained last week, as the Brat Pack because of their inexperience outside politics – to chew over. Rachel Whetstone, 25, currently head of the political section of the Conservative Research Department, close friend of David Faber MP (separated from weather-girl Sally) and one of the more glamorous aspects of Smith Square, is quitting her job. She hopes, she says, to become a special adviser after the reshuffle. One obvious potential vacancy for her is that of the heritage post, assuming that Peter Brooke is moved and that his right-hand man, Dominic Loehnis, quits the political sphere. ‘Nothing is definite,’ yesterday. ‘If I do end up out of a job, there are about ten different options. . .’

Much excitement backstage at Glyndebourne where rehearsals for Mozart’s Don Giovanni, due to open on 10 July, are under way. No ordinary production this. . .but a post-Aids version including new essential props: condoms, for which the administration is having to fork out normal prices. ‘Durex initially offered us the whole lot free providing we advertised them in our programmes,’ explains Helen O’Neil, head of PR. ‘We had to say no, purely because,’ she adds hastily, ‘they have already been printed.’

A social note: The fashions on display at the wedding of Lord Dalmeny, heir to the Earl of Rosebery, held on Saturday in Barnbougle castle, Scotland, the Roseberys’ original family home, made Ascot pale into insignificance. Surprisingly, however, there was just the odd lapse of manners. One gentleman approached a very smart young woman, attired in a red soldier suit, with gold buttons, top hat and veil. ‘Do you know you are wearing a mourner’s veil?’ he asked rather rudely. The woman, a clever sort, thought for a moment before turning to him with a smile: ‘Naturally – I used to go out with the groom.’

The sight of tennis ace Pete Sampras in The Gloucester

Casino, Gloucester Road, in the small hours of the morning last week, raised a few eyebrows among fellow flutterers, who assumed, naively, that he would be tucked up in bed with a mug of Horlicks and a digestive biscuit. Not the Sampras style, apparently. In fact, the casino is the preferred nightspot of a number of the players, who succumbed to its charms a few years ago when staying at the neighbouring Gloucester Hotel, one of the official abodes of the tournament.

(Photograph omitted)