A PAINTING of an aristocrat by one of the world’s most famous artists has been sold for just under £3million.
The image of Belinda “Bindy” Lambton was put up for sale by her son Ned, Lord Durham, to raise cash for the Lambton Estate, near Bournmoor, and in the wake of a legal settlement with his sisters.
The painting, Head on a Green Sofa, was painted by Lucian Freud and regarded by the artist as one of his best works.
It was sold for £2,994,500 at a auction at Sotheby’s in London, with the guide price given as between £2.5million and £3.5million.
Lady Lambton was part of Freud’s life for 25 years, with the painting made during long afternoons spent watching racing on a small black and white television between 1960 and 1961.
An unconventional and eccentric woman, she had married Antony Lambton when she was 18, becoming the doyenne of British high society and attracting friends and admirers who included Nancy Mitford, Bing Crosby, Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.
Despite the family’s grand homes and fortune, the mother-of-six decided her children should have a happy upbringing, with their holidays spent travelling around Britain in a caravan.
At their home at Biddick Hall, on the Lambton Estate, she hosted legendary parties, with the lions and leopards kept on the land said to occasionally roam the rooms of the 18th century mansion.
Her husband, the 6th Earl of Durham and a former Conservative defence minister, became embroiled in controversy he had to resign after being caught with a prostitute.
After he died in 2006, his entire estate was left to his son and heir, sparking a legal battle between Lord Durham and his sisters.
In October, the High Court heard a claim from Lady Lucinda Lambton, Lady Beatrix Nevill and Lady Anne Lambton, who said they were each entitled to “millions of pounds” under the laws of Italy, where their father spent his last 30 years.
Lord Durham, 52, had argued the dispute should be heard in England.
Since then the siblings have reached an undisclosed settlement.
Before the auction, Lord Durham said: “I am delighted that the painting of my mother has been so well received and hope that it finds a good home in the future.
“It is being sold, following a welcome settlement between my sister and me, and also to carry out much needed reparations to Lambton Estates.”
The estate has recently received a blow when it was told the grounds, which includes Lambton Castle, would no longer be used as the backdrop to BBC One drama The Paradise, as television bosses had not commissioned a third series.