Every few years the big auction houses will score a really great estate, and from the 24-25 September, Sotheby’s New York will be selling property from the estate of the late doyenne of American society, Mrs. Brooke Astor. These sales really draw back the curtains on life in a previous era. Mrs. Astor was born in 1902 and reached the pinnacle of New York society in 1953 when she married Vincent Astor, the son of John Jacob Astor IV, one of the New York millionaires who died onboard the Titanic.
Her lifestyle seems to be from a completely different time so you would think her property would be dated, but what is wonderful about this and other sales of this type, is that while you can totally envision how these objects and paintings were used in the past, you can also re-imagine many of them in fresh modern spaces. Of the 900 lots for sale, below I have chosen a few of my favorites that make this crossover:
Taken from Mrs. Astor’s drawing room, this bergère must have played host to the most well heeled derrieres in New York! Again, used alone in a modern space you’re not recreating her living room, but adding a nod to the past of your own. Imagine it reupholstered in polka dots or distressed linen with a color wash or even a drip-painted fabric – FABULOUS! And don’t worry that it’s almost 300 years old, it still looks mighty comfy for watching reruns of Seinfeld, The Graham Norton Show or even The Voice. Lot 477 – Estimate US$10,000 -15,000.
A small bronze by Italian-born, French/American animal sculptor Herbert Haseltine. I connect immediately with the serene majesty of this bull. Peaceful, calm and almost 100 years old, the sculptural lines are modern and he would look amazing in a modern space. Lot 60 – Estimate US$18,000 – 25,000.
Mrs. Astor had a remarkable collection of old master drawings. Part of the fun of these single owner estate sales is finding out little things about the person that didn’t make the social pages of the newspaper. I think this caricature by the great 18th century Italian Master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo is immensely charming. Lot 133 – Estimate US$10,000 -15,000.
Simply beautiful. A pair of classic Kangxi Period (1662-1722) celadon brushpots to add a touch of exoticism to your room. The shapes are modern; the color spectacular! Lot 148 – Estimate US$10,000 – 15,000.
This little table base does scream Edwardian conservatory, but I love the form and the size. Imagine it with a gray onyx top and between 2 Andre Sornay chairs covered with black Mongolian wool. Remember, taking single antiques such as this out of the stuffy drawing room and placing them in a modern interior allows them to become little jewels in a room. I’m not suggesting recreating Downton Abbey here! Lot 785 – Estimate US$300-400.
Why buy three different boxes when Tiffany has created this beautiful tiered stack for you? It’s circa 1950 and engraved with Vincent Astor’s name as well. Imagine the looks of your guests when they see these on your coffee table? Lot 592 – Estimate US$1,000 – 2,000.
image credits: (from top to bottom) Brooke Astor, January 21, 1999 by Richard Avedon © 2007, Richard Avedon Foundation | all other images provided by Sotheby’s, New York. The preview of the sale will be conducted from 17-23 of September 2012.
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