The Collection of John Rendall

The Collection of John Rendall

Former Owner of Christian the Lion

A collection of African art, photographs and personal items collected by John Rendall (1945-2022) will be offered across two upcoming sales in June.

7 June 2022

In an almost unbelievable story of nostalgia and friendship, Rendall became known to a new generation when grainy video footage was uploaded to YouTube a decade ago. Showing John and his friend, Anthony ‘Ace’ Bourke, being greeted with huge affection by a fully grown male lion as they met in the African bush, it has been viewed over 100 million times to date. 


John Rendall and Anthony Bourke reunited with Christian in Kenya, 1971


The story began in Swinging London in 1969, when the two Australian flatmates bought Christian the cub in Harrods for £250 after seeing him kept there in a cage. Raised on a diet of steak in their two-bed flat above a furniture shop on the King’s Road in Chelsea, the lion was the talk of the town and regularly taken to society parties in the back of an open-top Mercedes. The Rolling Stones, who rehearsed nearby, would frequently drop by to visit ‘the two Aussies with a lion’.


“It really was the good old days without all those tiresome words and exaggerations that the passing of time permits to creep in. How seldom in life are we free enough just to sit, just to enjoy friendship.” 

 John Rendall speaking in 1971


© Derek Cattani

An exotic animal in London was just a part of experimental Sixties London (at the time Harrods sold a variety of ‘pets’), but Christian had out-grown the flat by the time he was three months old. Following a meeting with the actors Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, stars of the 1966 film Born Free, it was arranged that Christian would be flown to Kenya and placed in the care of the lion conservationist George Adamson. The transition to the wild at the Kora National Park was successful with Christian, weighing over 500lbs, leading a pride of lionesses and a dynasty of cubs.


© Derek Cattani

© Derek Cattani


The events inspired Rendall to become a devoted conservationist and created a lifelong affinity with Africa and its wildlife. It also shaped his collecting, and the selection of pieces offered in these sales include a range of decorative African objects purchased during John’s visits to the continent. 


 John Rendall and Anthony Bourke reunited with Christian in Kenya, 1971


 © Derek Cattani

© Derek Cattani


A selection of twenty-eight lots will be offered in our Fine Interiors sale, on 14-15 June, including a range of decorative African objects, from drums and headrests to weaponry, with estimates ranging from £200-500.




The residual contents, including John's iconic fur coat, private photographs of Christian, and other items of tribal art will be sold in Sworders’ Homes & Interiors sale on 21 June.




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