RIVALS EVEN IN DEATH
New York 1965–1967
DURING THE EARLY EVENING of Friday 29 April, 1966, in an atmosphere of tense, almost palpitating excitement, over seven hundred people were gathered in the Madison Avenue premises of New York’s prestigious Parke-Bernet Galleries. There was a hush as auctioneer John Marion, the man known as a ‘wizard run by an adding machine’, took the gavel to start the Friday evening sale, the last in a series that had started the previous week. In the space of ten days, Parke-Bernet had placed under the hammer one of the largest – and certainly most famous – private collections ever to come on the market en masse. The belongings of their remarkable owner would, at the completion of the sales, fetch over $2,600,000 (more than $14,000,000 today).
There had been so much to catalogue, including as it did the contents of five homes in three countries, that it had taken over a year to complete, involving at least one change of auction house and a series of family arguments reported to be pretty lethal. Even as Parke-Bernet were launching their sales, it seems quite possible that they did not have the collections in their entirety – the owner’s lawyer, himself an executor of her will, having received offers from interested parties to acquire favoured items, with, it seems, some prepared to offer the added inducement of payment to a Swiss Bank.
There had been much gossip and eager anticipation amongst specialist dealers about this particular sale. Many were absolutely purring with pleasure, in spite of – or maybe because of – knowing they would be going head-to-head with the steely determination of museum directors from all over the world. This then was no ordinary sale.
Observing the crowded rooms with a self-satisfied smile was Peter
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden : Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry. Contributors: Lindy Woodhead - Author. Publisher: Wiley. Place of publication: Hoboken, NJ. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 11.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.