- Posted April 15, 2012 by
Titanic Survivor’s Family Opposes Auction
Relatives say kimono to be sold by RR Auction was not worn by Lady Duff Gordon
LONDON, April 15 - As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the descendants of a prominent survivor are disputing the authenticity of an item of apparel currently advertised by a New Hampshire auctioneer as having a connection to the disaster.
A Fortuny silk kimono, once thought by some to have been worn by Lady (Lucy) Duff Gordon, the titled British fashion designer known as “Lucile,” as she escaped the Titanic in a lifeboat, is scheduled to be sold by RR Auction on April 19. Members of the Duff Gordon family maintain that the “Titanic provenance,” previously given for the garment by an authority on the designer, was rescinded some years ago, owing to the discovery of new information that dates the piece to a decade after the 1912 tragedy.
Lady Clare Lindsay, a great-granddaughter of Lady Duff Gordon, says the Fortuny robe being auctioned was actually owned by her grandmother Esme, Countess of Halsbury. “It was the property of our grandmother, Esme Halsbury, not of her mother, Lucy Duff Gordon,” Lady Clare confirms, adding that although her family “no longer has any financial interest in this garment” since it passed out of their hands in 2001, they are concerned that RR Auction is selling the kimono without disclosing that its provenance is contested, not only by relatives but by Randy Bigham, the specialist who originally misidentified the item.
Bigham, the author of Lucile – Her Life by Design, a recently released biography of Lucy Duff Gordon, says he regrets misattributing the kimono but that he immediately adjusted his conclusion to take into account new research that proved it was made about ten years after the Titanic went down. “The garment cannot have been on the ship,” he explained, “because the style and material were not used until after World War I. This has been determined by the Fashion Museum in the UK and by independent textile experts.”
Despite repeated efforts by Bigham and the Duff Gordon family to convince RR Auction to recognize the kimono’s real provenance, or at least attach a disclaimer to the lot, the company continues to promote the article as having been worn on the Titanic.
“It is a well-documented Fortuny shape, with an equally well-documented Fortuny textile design dating from the 1920s,” says Lady Caroline Blois, another of Lucy Duff Gordon’s great-granddaughters. “This information should be given to potential buyers. It is the responsibility of the auction house to ensure that an item being sold is correctly described. The kimono is not the one worn off the Titanic by Lucy Duff Gordon, and should not be sold as such.”
Further evidence that the kimono in existence is not the one worn by the designer was provided recently when a trove of Titanic-related family letters was recovered by the UK legal firmVeale-Wasbrough-Vizards. As reported by the Daily Telegraph in London on April 14, letters written by Lucy Duff Gordon shortly after her rescue, along with a detailed inventory of her possessions aboard the Titanic, do not include a description of the kimono being offered by RR Auction.
Attempts to reach RR Auction’s public relations director, Bobby Livingston, for comment were unsuccessful.