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Mick Jagger pays tribute to late friend Count Manfredi Della Gherardesca ahead of ‘extraordinary’ auction

Manfredi della Gherardesca  (Alamy/Shutterstock)
Manfredi della Gherardesca (Alamy/Shutterstock)

Mick Jagger has written a moving foreword for the auction catalogue of the collection of Count Manfredi Della Gherardesca, the celebrated Italian interior designer, collector and art dealer who died suddenly aged 60, in 2022.

Described by auction house Dreweatts as “one of the most colourful, culturally erudite and well-loved figures” in the international art and design scene, Gherardesca was born into the nobel Italian della Gherardesca family and raised among the galleries and museums of Florence.

In his foreword, Jagger recalls meeting Gherardesca through his friend Dora, daughter of Prince Rupert Loewenstein, the Rolling Stones’ business manager, with whom the Rolling Stones star has worked since the Sixties.

Dora Loewenstein was married to Gherardesca from 1998 until his death; Jagger attended their wedding in London with his then-wife, supermodel Jerry Hall, and their infant son Gabriel.

“One of Manfredi’s many charms was his joy of discovery, be it places, people or art,” the rock legend wrote. “Our families travelled a lot together – we visited châteaux in the Loire, the Leonardo da Vinci Museum at Châteaux du Clos Lucé, museums in Florence, St Petersburg and even the wilds of the African Savannah!

“Whether looking at suits of armour, works of renaissance art, or Audubon prints of animals Manfredi always had some knowledge to impart.”

 (Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ska)
(Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ska)

Jagger noted that in certain design circles, Gherardesca’s taste might be deemed “eclectic” or “Bohemian”, but he believed it to be a case of “being confident about what you like”.

“You only had to visit one of Manfredi’s houses to appreciate his sense of style and decor,”he continued.

“I have been in most of them over the years, and during the pandemic, I spent some months at Castello di Castagneto, Manfredi’s family seat in Tuscany.

“Manfredi was around there at the same time, so we saw each other occasionally, Covid rules allowing, and I became more familiar with how profound his knowledge and connection with the history of art was.”

Reflecting on his friend’s collection, Jagger said it was possible to see “the breadth of his taste and talent” while also appreciating the more “outlandish” collections: “50 Belgian chocolate pots will attest to this.”

Interior from Alchemy of Design: The Collection of Count Manfredi della Gherardesca (James McDonald/Dreweatts)
Interior from Alchemy of Design: The Collection of Count Manfredi della Gherardesca (James McDonald/Dreweatts)

“His eye was spot on, although occasionally its taste would waiver as he often said, ‘You need bad taste because it counterbalances things,’” Jagger recalled.

“However, he definitely drew the line at wearing Crocs. He went on to say: ‘It all works together so long as what you’re surrounded by is loved and has meaning…’ What a perfect way to sum up this collection and, indeed, the man himself.”

Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger and model Jerry Hall with their baby, Gabriel, attend the wedding of Princess Maria-Theodora ‘Dora’ Loewenstein to Manfredi Gherardesca at the Brompton Oratory on September 27, 1998 in London (Getty Images)
Rolling Stones’ singer Mick Jagger and model Jerry Hall with their baby, Gabriel, attend the wedding of Princess Maria-Theodora ‘Dora’ Loewenstein to Manfredi Gherardesca at the Brompton Oratory on September 27, 1998 in London (Getty Images)

Gherardesca’s connection with history and art was likely inspired by his own family: among his notable relatives was Count Ugolino, an Italian nobleman, politician and naval commander who featured prominently – and met a grisly end – in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Due to Dante’s writing, Ugolino became known as the “Cannibal Count” and was depicted in artworks by Auguste Rodin, William Blake, and Jean-Baptise Carpeaux.

Gherardesca’s ancestral home in Tuscany (Elena Mannocci/Dreweatts)
Gherardesca’s ancestral home in Tuscany (Elena Mannocci/Dreweatts)

Gherardesca began his career as director of the L’Antiquaire and The Connoisseur Gallery in New York, before he was appointed to Citibank’s private art advisory division, later becoming chairman of Sotheby’s Italy.

In 2000, he founded MDG Fine Arts with the purpose of bringing galleries, auction houses and private collectors together, then made a move into interior design, where he furnished a number of prominent households with antiques and fine art.

He was admired by a number of prominent artists, musicians and literary figures, with US artist Jeff Koons praising his “insight into greatness”.

“His aesthetics were clear and sharpened,” he said. “I remember one time when Manfredi invited me to see Poussin’s early pastoral paintings.

 (Manfredi della Gherardesca Family Archive/Dreweatts)
(Manfredi della Gherardesca Family Archive/Dreweatts)

“To this day, I still feel the quality of those works and the atmosphere of them that he shared with me. I will always feel united with Manfredi through the sensitivity that he shared with me of his insight into greatness.”

The Dreweatts auction is the culmination of over three years of planning, the auction house said, and explores his “many diversions”, from modern and contemporary art to Old Master paintings, English and European furniture, photography and sculpture.

“Manfredi possessed the rare quality of having excellent taste, extensive knowledge and an extraordinary vision,” Joe Robinson, head of Dreweatts House Sales and Private Collections department, said in a statement.

“His profound passion made him a uniquely sophisticated and eclectic collector with a cultural depth representative of his keen appreciation for beauty in all its forms.

“Dreweatts are proud to have worked with Manfredi in the early stages of development for his sale and to have been entrusted with his collection. The collection is emblematic of his sublime, witty and original style.”

Alchemy of Design: The Collection of Count Manfredi della Gherardesca takes place on 24 April.