Philanthropist Brooke Astor’s lacquered Japanese cabinets, Louis XV clocks and porcelain tea sets are heading to the auction block at Sotheby’s on Sept. 24 and 25.
The sale “Property From the Estate of Brooke Astor” includes more than 900 lots from her Park Avenue duplex and her Westchester mansion, Holly Hill.
Expected to tally as much as $9.7 million, the proceeds will benefit Astor’s favorite charities, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Animal Medical Center and New York schools. Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105.
Estimates range from a small leather jewelry case, valued between $80 and $120, to a Tiepolo drawing for $300,000 to $400,000.
“There are so many small objects that are hopefully affordable for people,” said Philip Marshall, Astor’s grandson, in a telephone interview. “They were just as important to her as her expensive paintings.”
Among the highlights are animal figurines and dog paintings, many of which hung salon-style along the spiral stairwell in Holly Hill.
“There were dog statues and paintings all over the place,” said Marshall. A 19th-century painting of a King Charles spaniel, holding a red slipper in its teeth, is valued between $2,000 and $4,000.
The sale also includes lots of teapots. A group of four 18th-century Chinese pots is expected to bring $2,000 to $3,000. A mahogany tea table in the style of George III is valued between $300 and $400.
“She just loved having tea with people in the afternoon,” Marshall said.
In 1953, she married Vincent Astor, the oldest son of millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, who died on the Titanic in 1912. An expressionistic portrait of Vincent Astor as a young lieutenant has an estimate of $600 to $800.
As a child, Astor lived with her parents in China, and Asian art remained a passion throughout her life. She financed the replication of a Ming dynasty garden court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Sotheby’s sale includes a Qianlong-period gilt bronze lion clock stand, estimated at $180,000 to $220,000 and a pair of 18th-century famille-rose porcelain vases, valued at $80,000 to $120,000.
A fixture in New York society, Astor was known for her jewels. A Bulgari diamond necklace featuring 13 emerald drops is estimated between $250,000 and $350,000; the auction catalog has a photograph of Astor wearing the necklace while standing next to President Lyndon B. Johnson at a Plaza Hotel dinner dance.
A pair of 18-karat gold, platinum and diamond double-heart ear clips by Van Cleef & Arpels is valued at $4,000 to $6,000. Her French gold and ruby bracelet is $5,000 to $7,000.
All those things were “part of her lifestyle,” Marshall said. “They bring back so many memories.”
Muse highlights include Martin Gayford on art, James S. Russell on architecture.