Mrs Mozelle Sassoon (1872–1964)

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Jacques Cazotte (NG 6435)

Mozelle Sassoon (née Gubbay) was born on 1 January 1872 at Malabar Castle, Malabar Hill, Mumbai.1 She married Meyer Sassoon in June 1892.2 She was the daughter of A.M. Gubbay and the granddaughter of Sir Albert Sassoon, 1st Baronet, who was her father-in-law’s younger brother. Mozelle and Meyer had one son, Reginald, a noted horseman, who was awarded the MC during the First World War. He died in 1933 as a result of a riding accident. They also had a daughter, Violet Leah, who in 1917 married Derek Barrington Fitzgerald of the Irish Guards.3 The Sassoons’ London residence was at 6 Hamilton Place, off Park Lane, about which a visitor in 1904, referring to the Sassoons’ Jewish heritage, said: ‘There is no sign in this house of the departure of Israel’s glory; everything shines with the greatest lustre.’4 In 1941 Mozelle moved definitively to her country residence at Popes Manor, Binfield, Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, which had been built in about 1700 (with later additions).5 In 1920–3 she had built a substantial house at Dinard known as the château de Port Breton. It and its substantial grounds are now owned by the municipality.6 She was a considerable philanthropist, supporting diverse charities, from helping the poor and the sick to the restoration of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Second World War. Among her more (financially) significant gifts were those to provide a new library to present to the British Institute in Paris in 1928;7 to support low-cost housing in the form of R.E. Sassoon House, Peckham (named after her son Reginald), which was opened in 1934 and is now Grade II listed;8 £15,000 to found in 1936 the Mozelle Sassoon High Voltage X-Ray Therapy Department at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London;9 and in 1938 to support German Jewry.10

In addition, Mozelle Sassoon supported both arts and other charities through her art collection. In aid of the Royal Northern Hospital, she opened her London home to the public for three days to show her collection;11 she donated a terracotta bust of a child by Houdon for Christie’s sale on 24–25 May 1939 in aid of Lord Baldwin’s Fund for Refugees (bought by Agnews for £441, the sale’s highest price),12 and for the same event a small painting by Francesco Guardi (lot 243, £30, to Gubbay); and she gave £250 to The Leonardo Appeal Fund organised by the National Art Collections Fund in 1962 in aid of the National Gallery acquiring the cartoon of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist (NG 6337).

Mozelle Sassoon had a significant collection of Chelsea scent bottles, which were sold after her death by her daughter (Sotheby’s, London, 4 May and 12 October 1965), but her principal interest was in eighteenth-century French paintings and works of art, including Chantilly, Vincennes and Sèvres porcelain.13 Among the Sèvres items was a blue-ground vase and cover of about 1765 which had once been in the collection of Yolande Lyne Stephens, the one-time owner of Watteau’s La Gamme d’Amour (The Scale of Love) (NG 2897).14 One of the prize paintings in her collection was Largillierre’s La Belle Strasbourgeoise (Strasbourg, Musée des Beaux-Arts), which, as Dominique Jacquot has kindly informed me, she had bought at the François Coty sale (Paris, 30 November 1936, lot 23, 1,510,000 francs). It was sold by her daughter, Mrs Derek (Violet) Fitzgerald at her sale, Sotheby’s, London, 3 July 1963, lot 5 (£145,000 to the City of Strasbourg). Other paintings in that sale which had once belonged to Mozelle Sassoon were Adolf Ulric Wertmüller’s portrait of Jean-Jacques Caffieri now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, probably bought by her either at the sale of comte Jean de la Riboisière, Paris, 27 March 1936, lot 9, or shortly thereafter;15 a portrait of the baron de Longepierre then believed to be by Jean François de Troy (exhibited 1954–5, London, Royal Academy, no. 133; now attributed to François de Troy),16 two small landscapes attributed to Boucher, Le Moulin de Quiquengrogne à Charenton and Le Vieux Colombier; and a portrait of Omai in military uniform by Reynolds. After the death of Mrs Fitzgerald in 1970, a number of pictures which she had inherited from her mother were sold by her executors: in 1972 a Nattier female half-length;17 La petite nourrice by François Hubert Drouais exhibited at the 1763 Salon (no. 118), which was recently on the New York art market;18 the same artist’s circular self portrait and portrait of his wife, both dated 1764; and, in 1976, Perronneau’s Jacques Cazotte (NG 6435). Two paintings by Jean-Baptiste Pater, La Balançoire and Fête champêtre, were soon afterwards sold by a descendant, underlining the dix-huitième slant of Mozelle’s collection.19

NOTES

1 www.farhi.org/wc51/wc51_416.htm.

2 For Meyer Sassoon, see the entry for Perronneau NG 6345, note 3.

3 For Violet, Mrs Fitzgerald, see ibid.

4 Cited in Roth 1941, p. 186.

5 It was briefly described in The Times, 16 November 1964, p. 15. Information about the building is available on the British Listed Buildings website at www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.

6 For some information on the château de Port Breton today see www.ville-dinard.fr.

7The Times, 19 January 1928, p. 11.

8 Ibid., 17 November 1934, p. 9.

9 See reference GB 0405 RD at www.aim25.com (a database of archives and manuscript collections of London higher education and other institutions), and The Times, 23 December 1938.

10The Times, 23 December 1938.

11 Ibid., 12 March 1935, p. 21.

12 Ibid., 9 March and 25 May 1939.

13 Ibid., 19 March 1935, p. 21.

14 See the catalogue entry for lot 62 in Sotheby’s ‘The Dimitri Mavrommatis Collection: Important French Furniture and Sèvres Porcelain from the Chester Square Residence, London’, 8 July 2008.

15 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 63.1082.

16 Leribault 2002, P.R. 35.

17 Sitter and location unknown: Salmon 1999, p. 262, fig. 3.

18 Christie’s, New York, 14 April 2016, lot 147.

19 Christie’s, London, 30 November 1979, lots 81 and 82. The latter is in the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, inv. F.1985.3.P.