Saturday, October 4, 2014

Bunny Mellon $300 Million Auction~Philanthropist, Heriess, Horticulturist

Rachel Lambert "Bunny" Mellon was a well known name in the world of philanthropy and art, and horticulture. She had passed away in March 12, 2014 at the age of 103.   She came from great wealth and her husbands came from equally wealthy and aristocratic families. Her husbands net worth was in the billions. Art enthusiasts and collectors from around the world are getting ready for a large scale, 6 separate auctions happening at Sothebys in New York in November.  The items in the auction are in the 4,000 item mark, yes 4,000 items.  The sale will consist of jewelry by great designers of the 20th century, among them Cartier and Verdura; antique French, English and American furniture; and examples of rare porcelains.

She had kept all of her correspondence and didnt throw anything away, so that can explain so many treasured items that will be featured. The pre auction estimates are around $100 Million dollars. ( two of her Rothko paintings have already sold to private buyers for $250 Million dollars) Mark Rothko was an American painter of Russian descent that was an abstract expressionist painter. Bunny had come across his loft in New York and immediately purchased 13 of his paintings.
Rachel "Bunny" Lambert Mellon
  "Bunny" got her affectionate from her her Mother when she was a child. Her father was the oldest child of Gerard Barnes Lambert, president of the Gillette Safety Razor Company, and his father founded Lambert pharmaceuticals and invented Listerine, her grandfather. Her husband Paul Mellon who's father was Andrew Mellon who was one of the richest financiers and was a US Treasurer from 1921 -1932.  Her friends were socialites, heads of state and celebrities. Jacqueline  Kennedy was also one of  her close friends. Bunny was a well known and self taught horticulturist and had redesigned the rose gardens (at the request of Jackie) at the White House when Kennedy was in office and also sadly the flowers that draped on JFK's coffin.

Her husband  Paul was a primary benefactor of the Washington's National Gallery of Art. During Pauls lifetime they had donated or loaned over 900 pieces of art to the national museum. Some of the works included Cézanne’s “Boy in a Red Waistcoat”; paintings by Rothko; animal sculptures by Alexander Calder; Winslow Homer’s “Dad’s Coming”; Picassos, Gauguins, Bonnards and Vuillards; a Manet; the original wax version of Degas’s “Little 14-Year-Old Dancer”; and postcards that had been written by Van Gogh and Matisse. Over the years, he served as its president, chairman and honorary trustee.

At the time in 1948 they were one of the country's wealthiest couples that devoted their time to philanthropy and supporting the arts. Another of his passions was thoroughbreds and had stables for 40 horses on their Virgina estate.

Paul and Bunny Mellon at the 1993 Kentucky Derby, his horse Sea Hero won
 She was an extremely private person, who was very polite and gave few interviews.  The interviews she did give, the last one when she was 99.  The interviewer was always treated to warm and very hospitable visit. She would often invite the interviewers to her estate for lunch and a tour of the grounds. She had very few visitors to her beloved Oak Spring estate in Upperville, Virginia. 

Front view of Oak Spring Estate (main building on the property)

Gorgeous picture of the Oak Spring Library that contains 10,000 manuscripts and books

Her infamous greenhouse in Virginia

Aerial view of the 4,000 acres at Upperville, Va including an air strip
  The Oak Spring estate consist of over 20 residential buildings a Georgian style mansion which housed the Mellons art. They had lived in another building next to the main house, they felt it was to grand. With a staff of 120 people, a majority of them lived on the 2,000 acre property. On a side note the Oak Spring estate is listed for sale at $70 Million dollars. Here is a link for pictures of her  beautiful Oak Spring Estate

Aerial view of their estate in Antigua

Bunny Mellon with Jackie Kennedy in 1961 in Boston
She was a collector of many things,.. But she didnt amass her items with the hope of financial gain, she bought everything from jewels that were made for her by Jean Schlumager ( pre Tiffanys) to generic gardening baskets. She had an amazing eye and had accumulated a large collection of art by some of the world best artistsand a blue diamond estimated to sell for $10- $15 Million dollars. The diamond is going up for Auction on November 20th while the household furnishing will be auction on November 21- 23rd. 

Great picture of Bunny doing what she loved, gardening~

Bunny and her husband Paul with Lady Bird Johnson

An 18 Karat Gold, Peridot and Turquoise Compact, Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.Pre auction estimate $15,000- 20,000, An 18 Karat Gold, Amethyst and Turquoise Compact, Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. Pre auction estimate $15,000 -$20,000. A round compact? Never seen one before~

A Pair of 18 Karat Gold, Sapphire and Diamond Brooches, Van Cleef & Arpels that resemble  two flowerheads, the petals composed of round, oval and cushion-cut sapphires weighing approximately 20.00cts with numerous round and cushion-cut diamonds weighing approximately 9.80cts  Pre auction estimate $25,000- $35,000
A rare Fancy Vivid Blue diamond pendant weighing 9.75 carats, of VVS2 clarity and potentially internally flawless (est. $10 – $15 million). The sale will also offer another blue diamond, an important 9.15-carat Fancy Blue diamond pendant of VS1 clarity. Pre Auction estimate $1.0 – $1.5Million
A fabulous Gold and Diamond Rivière, Cartier Late 1940’s  graduated design, set with 29 old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 111.00tcw, the clasp set with a round Fancy Deep Yellow diamond weighing 4.20 carats pre
No one was aware of the amount of items that she had owned. She had few guests and it took Sothebys a substantial amount of time to categorize the items that were to go to auction. Her personal library (featuring one of the Rothkos paintings) holds more than 10,000 manuscripts about books about plants and gardening.  The main brick house were a majority of the Mellons art was showcased will not be part of the estates sale.
Mark Rothko "Yellow Expanse" painting, sold for undisclosed amount, possible $150 Million
1957 8 foot tall blue canvas called No. 14 originally owned by Nelson Rockefeller
Artist Mark Rothkos with one of his abstract canvases
The Mellon sale is expected to provide a similarly rich visual history and a peek into the world of one of this country’s most private couples. Bunny designed the gatehouse to the couple’s property in Virginia and was known to have her own carpenter to build furniture of her own designs. Always loyal, Mrs. Mellon was dressed exclusively by Balenciaga until his retirement in 1968 and later only by Hubert de Givenchy.

             I'll follow up with the auction results next month, until then keep sparkling!

1 comment: