A rare and unusual theater-related collection is being auctioned this month.

The items, including the silk suit believed to have been painted by Matisse, belong to octogenarian Walter Johnston, from the Furness Peninsula, who performed on the London stage and later lectured on musical theatre, literature and antiquities.

More than 30 lots from Mr Johnston’s collection are part of an online auction of 232 lots which closes at 7pm on Sunday July 31.

Annia Zalewski, textile expert at the 1818 auctioneer, says there are some truly unique items, which makes it difficult to assess their value.

“For example, there’s a vibrant hand-painted silk costume of Stravinsky’s ‘The Nightingale’ in Covent Garden,” she said.

“Thought to be from the first production and painted by Matisse. He could attract bids between £800 and £1,200, but he could easily fetch a lot more.

A hand-painted silk costume of Stravinsky’s Nightingale in Covent Garden, thought to be painted by Matisse

“There is also a rare sheet of 10 prints in black, white and gold depicting the legendary Polish-born Russian ballet dancer of the early 20th century, Vaslav Nijinsky. I valued this at £600-800.

“And a pair of ballet flats, said to have been worn by Margot Fonteyn, together with five postcards featuring the iconic British ballet dancer, could cost between £400 and £600.

“It’s a very special collection.

“Walter’s classmates may have had a hand in helping him raise it. Edward Mariam and Victor Hackett worked in the costume department of Covent Garden Theater and Victor became a successful designer and costume designer.

“There is already a lot of interest there and Walter is keen to see these unique items find a new home.”

The vintage and retro textiles auction also includes, and not from the collection, two pairs of late 19th century Chinese lotus shoes, for bound feet, with an estimate of £300-500.

Plus, a late 1940s taupe-coloured embroidered tulle dress with a stand-up collar that could sell for £120. As well as designer 1950s day and sun dresses.

Anyone interested in viewing the sale can call between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Or speak to Ms Zalewski at the auction house by telephoning 01539 566201. People can also view the sale and place bids online via the 1818 Auctioneers website, by selecting the Auctions tab on the auction page. welcome.