Has anyone heard about the Sotheby’s auction for items from Brooke Astor’s estate, which will be occurring Monday and Tuesday, September 24-25? While it was hinted about by the New York Times in November 2011, it was first formally announced in March after the horribly unpleasant Astor will dispute was settled, and I had forgotten about it until reading through my September 2012 Town & Country magazine.
I chose to write about this auction to let you all know that there will be a preview period for Mrs. Astor’s estate (no, that does not just happen on Sex & The City). Sotheby’s York Avenue gallery will be showing the 901 lots starting on Monday, September 17, a week prior to the auction. Items included will be from her Holly Hill Westchester estate as well as her Park Avenue duplex.
There will be four auction sessions, with different lots offered during these auction periods. You can find the schedule below:
Session 1 | 24 Sep 2012 10:00 AM | Lots 1 – 219
Session 2 | 24 Sep 2012 2:00 PM | Lots 220 – 370
Session 3 | 25 Sep 2012 10:00 AM | Lots 371 – 678
Session 4 | 25 Sep 2012 2:00 PM | Lots 679 – 901
I am going to share with you some of my favorite items from this auction, which you may remember was similar in format to the entry I wrote about Patricia Kluge’s jewelry auction as well as Patricia Kluge’s former residence, Albemarle House! [side bar: big controversy here in Cville area is that Donald Trump now owns the winery (1000 acres) and 200 acres around Albemarle House (including lawn and driveway). However, he does not own the house as the bank does not want to sell it for as little as he is offering them. So, he is not mowing the front lawn to make it unattractive to potential buyers. This guy is a shrewd genius.] I thought showing you these items from the entire auction catalogue might give you all an idea of what my tastes are like, as well as M’s, and how we have decorated our home. Of course I love some of the 500,000 paintings, but I’d rather get the jewelry that will fetch that much… right?
Lot 15: A pair of Chinese Cloisonne elephant-form tea cannisters and covers – 20th century
Estimate: 1,000 – 1,500 USD
height 11 1/2 in. | 29.1 cm
Lot 104: A Chinese black and gilt lacquer rectangular low table with conforming glass top – 19th century
Estimate: 1,200 – 1,800 USD
height 18 1/2 in.; width 24 in.; depth 18 in. | 47 cm; 60.9 cm; 45.6 cm
Lot 341: Attributed to Jules Achelle Noël, 1815 – 1881, Ships in the Port of Calais – oil on canvas
Estimate: 800 – 1,200 USD
size 19 by 25 1/4 in. | 48.3 by 64.1 cm
Lot 455: A Louis XV carved beechwood tabouret – mid-18th century
Estimate: 800 – 1,200 USD
height 14 in.; width 29 in.; depth 17 in. | 35.5 cm; 74 cm; 43.5 cm
Lot 509: A Regency style mahogany Canterbury – late 19th/early 20th century
Estimate: 800 – 1,200 USD
height 21 3/4 in.; width 22 in.; depth 16 in. | 55.2 cm; 55.9 cm; 40.6 cm
Lot 520: Paul Jean Clays, 1819 – 1900, Boats in a Harbor. Signed and dated P.J. Clays, 1873. Lower right, oil on canvas.
Estimate: 3,000 – 5,000 USD
29 3/4 by 43 1/2 in. | 75.6 by 110.5 cm
Lot 898: A Platinum, Emerald and Diamond Ring – the modified emerald-cut emerald weighing 22.84 carats, flanked by 8 baguette diamonds weighing approximately .90 carat, size 5¼, numbered 4019169, circa 1930; with box signed Van Cleef & Arpels, Inc.
Estimate: 100,000 – 150,000 USD
Catalogue notes: Accompanied by AGL report no. CS 47619 stating that the emerald is of Colombian origin, clarity enhancement: insignificant, type: Canada Balsam.
This elegant emerald and diamond ring was presented by Vincent Astor to the soon-to-be Mrs. Astor upon their engagement in 1953. Cecil Beaton, a friend of Mrs. Astor, was called upon to take portraits on the evening that she and Vincent held a party at the St. Regis to celebrate their marriage. Mrs. Astor wore a flowing Balmain ball gown made of various shades of blue and green satin. In her 1980 autobiography Mrs. Astor wrote that her emerald and diamond engagement ring was one of the jewels she chose to wear that evening “to complete the color scheme.” Astor, Brooke. Footprints: An Autobiography. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City: New York, 1980.
Lot 900: A Platinum, 18 Karat Gold, Emerald and Diamond Necklace, Bulgari,
1959 – centering a flexible composition of 13 emerald drops weighing approximately 71.00 carats, further enhanced with 14 cabochon emeralds weighing approximately 41.00 carats accented by 14 marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 8.50 carats, and set throughout with numerous round diamonds weighing approximately 50.00 carats, length 14½ inches, unsigned, French workshop and assay marks; with signed and fitted box.
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000 USD
Catalogue notes: This magnificent emerald and diamond necklace was commissioned in the fall of 1958 while Mr. and Mrs. Astor were visiting England. As Mrs. Astor recounted in her 1980 autobiography, “Vincent amused himself by having old Mr. Bulgari come over from Rome to discuss an emerald necklace and earrings for me.” After spending the afternoon with the couple, Mr. Bulgari returned to Rome to contemplate the design of the suite. Mrs. Astor later noted that, “Vincent was very pleased with himself.” It was shortly after this trip to England, in February of 1959, that Vincent passed away. As far as Mrs. Astor knew, the design for the emerald suite remained a mystery.
It came as quite a surprise to Mrs. Astor when she received a package from Mr. Bulgari nearly two years later. As Mrs. Astor wrote, “A strange thing happened at this very moment. Mr. Bulgari, the Italian jeweler, sent over a colored transparency of the emerald necklace and earrings for which we had selected the stones in London in 1958.” Attached to the transparency was a note from Vincent, asking that the pieces be completed in time for Mrs. Astor’s birthday in March. Having recently returned from a yacht voyage with friends and in the midst of implementing changes within the Astor Foundation, Mrs. Astor felt that the timing was inopportune for such a lavish present. However, after some reassuring words from her banker and further admiration of the design, Mrs. Astor moved forward with the purchase concluding that the necklace “is pretty and not ostentatious but very elegant.”
The emerald and diamond necklace is distinguished both by its impressive design and by Mrs. Astor’s emotional ties to it. Mrs. Astor explained this connection in her autobiography writing, “Considering that it was really Vincent’s last personal gift to me, I am very sentimental about it, and I felt that it was a sign of encouragement from Vincent.” Astor, Brooke. Footprints: An Autobiography. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City: New York, 1980.
Mrs. Astor requested that the monies raised from this auction go to the following charities: The New York Public Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pierpont Morgan Library, The Animal Medical Center of New York, New York City Schools, and additional charities which are located in Maine. I am happy she is still giving, these many years later, back to the charities she cared about throughout her life.
Press may direct questions about this auction to:
New York Sotheby’s phone +1 212 606 7176
Lauren Gioia | Lauren.Gioia@Sothebys.com
Darrell Rocha | Darrell.Rocha@Sothebys.com
All photos included in this post are © 2012 Sotheby’s.