Last year Viscount Linley surprised everyone by buying back an Annigoni portrait of his mother, Princess Margaret, from a sale of family heirlooms…
While the painting was being copied, various sections were magnified, revealing previously unseen artistic flourishes by Annigoni, including inscriptions on leaves, a heart hanging in a glass on a branch and a tiny self-portrait.
The heart in a glass is thought to represent Princess Margaret’s heartbreak over Group Captain Peter Townsend; her wedding to Townsend was called off in 1955 and she sat for the Annigoni portrait in 1957. She married Linley’s father Antony Armstrong-Jones, now Lord Snowdon, in 1960.
The company copying the painting, Family Copies, drew the attention of Christie’s to the significant details. It is thought Linley, who is now chairman of Christie’s, bought back the painting as he considered the extra details made it sentimentally too valuable to risk it leaving the country.