Emile Théodore Frandsen de Schomberg (1902-1969)

La Jeune Fille au Bouquet, circa 1950-55, the original painting used as the cover artwork for the 1970 Derek and the Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, oil on canvas, signed ‘Frandsen’ lower left recto; accompanied by Pattie Boyd's correspondence with the artist's estate
2134 x 1814 in. (55.3 x 46.3 cm.)
Acquired directly from Emile de la Tour de St Ygest, the artist’s son, by Eric Clapton in 1970.
Gifted to George Harrison by Eric Clapton, late 1970s.
Gifted to Pattie Boyd by George Harrison, late 1980s.
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Lot Essay

The original cover art for Derek and the Dominos’ seminal 1970 double album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Embroiled in rock’s most famous love triangle, Eric Clapton’s fierce unrequited passion and romantic agony fuelled the creation of a masterpiece of modern music, when he recorded Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs with Derek and the Dominos in 1970. Disguising himself as ‘Derek’ and Pattie Boyd as the titular ‘Layla’, Clapton’s searing proclamation of love came to the fore on the album’s powerful title track, long considered a rock standard and ranked at number 27 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.

Released by Polydor in December 1970, the album’s original record sleeve credited the front cover artwork as Cover painting by Frandsen-De Schomberg with thanks to his son Emile for the abuse of his house. Derek and the Dominos had been scheduled to play the Popanalia Festival at Biot in the South of France on 5 August 1970. The event was cancelled soon after it began when 30,000 spectators crashed the site without paying for tickets, leaving organisers short of funds to pay the artists and leading to a group of radical revolutionaries called Les Companions de la Route burning the stage and equipment in protest. When the Dominos, who were staying in Frandsen’s farmhouse in the nearby village of Varbonne, heard of the cancellation just as they were walking out the door to head to the show, they kicked back and spent the next two days hanging out at the farm. Interviewed for the website Where’s Eric in April 2011, Dominos keyboardist Bobby Whitlock recalled that the artist’s son Emile invited them to browse his father’s studio after interrupting the band in the midst of a messy egg fight in the farmhouse kitchen: Eric was just about to throw the last egg when in walked Emile... Caught in the act with egg on all of our faces! … Emile seemed to not pay any attention to what we had done... He then asked for us to follow him to the art studio because he had gifts that his father had waiting for us all. Here we had trashed his home and he was giving us gifts! … When we walked into the studio, there it was. The painting that would be the cover that everyone has come to know as Layla. When Clapton likened the portrait known as La Jeune Fille au Bouquet to his own blonde muse Pattie Boyd, Emile offered him the painting. In the accompanying letter dated September 2021, the artist’s son Emile de la Tour de St Ygest confirms: I gave this painting to Eric Clapton in person when he left the Popanalia festival in 1970.

After studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1930s and working for the French Resistance during the Nazi Occupation in WWII, Franco-Danish artist Théodore Émile Frandsen de Schomberg fled to the South of France in search of light, settling in the village of Valbonne. He developed the concept of 'tensism' as a way of approaching artistic creation through 'introspective psychology' and left behind an abundant and eclectic body of work. Art critic Mikaël Faujour notes that women, whom Frandsen saw as representative of the ‘allegory of thought’ are omnipresent in his work – sensual companions or pale spectres, facetious beauties or confusing masks, adding that his characters appear as puppets of something greater than themselves, bodies which no longer belong to themselves, articulated by desires and passions which exceed them. As representative of Clapton’s profound yearning for Pattie Boyd, the treasured portrait that he carried back to England that August certainly aligns with this assessment of the artist’s oeuvre, for it would be chosen as the cover artwork for Derek and the Dominos first and only studio album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs - widely regarded as Clapton’s greatest musical achievement - and become synonymous with one of the best loved rock songs of all time.

The short-lived ensemble Derek and the Dominos came together in spring 1970 following the dissolution of Clapton’s former supergroup Blind Faith and the disbanding of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, with whom Clapton had recently toured. Led by Clapton, with three former members of the latter collective – keyboardist and songwriting partner Bobby Whitlock, bassist Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon – the group first served as the backing band on much of George Harrison’s post-Beatles solo album All Things Must Pass, before playing their debut concert at London’s Lyceum Ballroom on 14 June 1970 as Derek and the Dominos. The obscurity of the name allowed a fame-weary Clapton to play somewhat anonymously for a time. The idea was that wherever we went, we should play incognito, and in this way get back to our roots, Clapton revealed in his 2007 autobiography. To begin with it worked. We toured round the country, playing small clubs and halls in towns like Scarborough, Dunstable, Torquay and Redcar, and no one knew who we were, and I loved it. Following their summer tour of the UK and the ill-fated cross-channel trip to the Popanalia Festival, the band flew to Miami in late August to record the album at Criteria Studios with producer Tom Down, enlisting Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers as a second lead guitarist. The sublime interplay between the two guitarists would, in Clapton’s words, inject the substance into the Layla sessions.

Much of the album, in particular the title track Layla, was inspired by Clapton’s growing infatuation for close friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. This was an incredibly creative time for me, recalls Clapton. Driven by my obsession with Pattie, I was writing a lot, and all the songs I wrote for the Dominos’ first album are really about her and our relationship. ‘Layla’ was the key song and was a conscious attempt to speak to her about the fact that she was holding off and wouldn’t come and move in with me. ‘What’ll you do when you get lonely?’ Writing for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, American music critic Dave Marsh declared that there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide … to me, 'Layla' is the greatest of them. According to Dowd, Layla featured six tracks of overlapping guitar: There’s an Eric rhythm part; three tracks of Eric playing harmony with himself on the main riff; one of Duane playing that beautiful bottleneck; and one of Duane and Eric locked up, playing countermelodies. Composed by drummer Jim Gordon, the song’s serene piano coda, known as the ‘Piano Exit’, was spliced in a couple of weeks after the original recording as a second movement.

By Boyd’s own account, although she and Harrison still loved each other dearly, life was not idyllic. As their marriage became increasingly strained by Harrison’s extra-marital exploits and preoccupation with Eastern spirituality, Boyd found herself flattered by Clapton’s attentions. It was hard not to be flattered when I caught him staring at me, recalled Boyd, or when he chose to sit beside me or complimented me on what I was wearing or the food I had made, or when he said things he knew would make me laugh or engaged me in conversation. Those were all things that George no longer did. Clapton returned from Miami with a pair of flared jeans Boyd had asked him to pick up in the States, which had inspired the album’s second track Bell Bottom Blues. A letter followed in early October, addressed to Dearest L, intended to ascertain Boyd’s feelings after his time away and whether she still loved her husband (see lot 33). Not long afterwards, Clapton would play the finished album for Boyd. I had convinced myself that when she heard the completed Layla album, with all its references to our situation, she would be so overcome by my cry of love that she would finally leave George and come away with me for good, Clapton admits. So I called her up one afternoon and asked her if she’d like to come over for tea, and listen to the new record. Boyd remembers: He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume, and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was “Layla” - about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable. Clapton had been inspired by classical love poem The Story of Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganiavi, when both he and Boyd were given a copy of the tale by a mutual friend. Eric had identified with Majnun and was determined that I should know how he felt, Pattie continues. My first thought was, Oh God, everyone’s going to know who this is… But the song got the better of me, with the realisation that I had inspired such passion and such creativity. I could resist no longer.

After Clapton confessed his feelings to Harrison at a party one evening, telling him I’m in love with your wife, Boyd made the choice to go home with her husband, refusing to leave him. The dejected Clapton retreated into seclusion and a burgeoning heroin addiction at his Surrey home Hurtwood Edge and, following a failed attempt to record a second album, the Dominos split in spring 1971. Fried by their heavy drug use, tragedy appeared to haunt the former band: Allman would die in a motorcycle accident within a year of the album’s release, bassist Radle would die of narcotics-induced kidney failure in 1980, Clapton would endure his own well documented addiction struggles, and drummer Gordon would murder his own mother in a psychotic episode 13 years later. We were a make-believe band, Clapton would later reflect. We were all hiding inside it. Derek and the Dominos – the whole thing. So it couldn't last… I mean, being Derek was a cover for the fact that I was trying to steal someone else's wife. That was one of the reasons for doing it, so that I could write the song, and even use another name for Pattie. So Derek and Layla – it wasn't real at all. Although well reviewed by Rolling Stone, Clapton admits that when we put out the album it died a death... because even though word was beginning to seep out that ‘Derek is Eric’, I wasn’t prepared to do any press or help it in any way. I was still a real idealist in those days, and my hope was that the album would sell on its merit. It didn't, of course, because lack of promotion meant that nobody knew it was out there. Clapton’s insistence that the image of his ‘Layla’ – or Frandsen’s La Jeune Fille au Bouquet – should be used on the album cover without any band name or album title overlaid, did little to help sales. It wasn’t until the successful single release of the title track in 1972, which saw it make the top ten in both the UK and US, that the album began to receive more widespread acclaim.

No longer able to turn a blind eye to her husband’s many infidelities, which reportedly included Ringo’s wife Maureen, Boyd eventually left Harrison for Clapton in July 1974. Astonishingly, the trio were able to remain close friends, with Harrison even referring to Clapton as his ‘husband-in-law’. At some point after Harrison and Boyd’s divorce was finalised in 1977, Eric Clapton mischievously presented the original ‘Layla’ painting to his old pal George Harrison as a ‘replacement’ for the real Pattie Boyd. Although Clapton and Boyd went on to marry in 1979, the relationship would be undermined by Clapton’s alcoholism and infidelities, leading to their divorce in 1989. When Eric and I split up, chuckles Boyd, George gave me the painting back. I’ve kept it ever since, for the last 20 or 30 years, hanging in my cottage in Sussex. Although Boyd has made the decision to part with the painting, the music will remain with her forever. When Layla comes on the radio, confides Boyd, it still gives me a jolt. It’s part of my being.

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