Baronness of shame

2010-01-23 00:00

THE home and contents of Cape Town socialite Baroness Alexandra von Maltzahn, who left South Africa last year under a cloud of debt, went under the hammer yesterday, raising the best part of R18 million — a fraction of R45 million reportedly owed by the Von Maltzahns to Standard Bank.

The bank had power of attorney to sell the Von Maltzahns’ former home on Rhodes Drive, halfway between Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Constantia Nek, a vacant lot next door, and the contents of the house, which included antique furniture, Prada and Gucci handbags, Tiffany & Co. jewellery, Edwardian mahogany bookcases, Giltwood lounge furniture, crockery and gym equipment.

One of the big attractions at the auction, run by Alliance Group, was an extensive collection of original leather-bound books dating back to the 1700s and contemporary art and decor coffee-table books.

A spokesman for the auctioneers said they had called in an independent Cape Town book valuer to assist in reviewing the books and to guide them with respect to value.

The collection of art books sold for R15 500, with 25 Scott novels going for R20 000; a Cassells Illustrated Family Bible and six volumes of Shakespeare for R21 000; a 1901 leatherbound Chambers Dictionary and poetry books for R14 000; and Lettres De Madame De Sevigne de sa Famille et de ses Enfants, Paris, 1868, for R16 000.

A series of Tin Tin posters sold for an average of R1 500 each with the highest price achieved for one, R1 750.

The total for the house contents was R960 000, which a spokesman for Alliance Group said was “way more than they expected”. The house went for R13 million and the vacant lot for R4 million.

Von Maltzahn and her husband, Victor, moved to South Africa from London in the late 1990s, reportedly along with a quantity of furniture belonging to a Mayfair antique dealer who was surprised to learn it had gone overseas. They hosted lavish parties and had regular visits from other Constantia residents, including Mark Thatcher and Simon Mann.

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