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Astor Prices Soar on First Day, $200 Box Fetches $21,250

Six-Headed Avalokiteshvara
A "Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of a six-headed Avalokiteshvara" (14th Century). The figure, which is estimated at $2,500 to $3,500, was sold for $134,500. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg

A bronze figure of a six-headed Tibetan deity that belonged to Brooke Astor and was expected to sell for $2,500 to $3,500 went for $134,500 yesterday at Sotheby’s.

“I was going to bid on it, but it went through the roof,” said Philip Marshall, Astor’s grandson, as a two-day auction of the New York philanthropist’s property got under way. “It’s her provenance.”

The items come from Astor’s former Park Avenue duplex and Westchester mansion, Holly Hill. The proceeds will benefit her 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.

The auction house estimated that the 901 lots would tally between $6.6 million and $9.7 million. Sales reached $6.7 million by the end of the first of four parts.

The top lot yesterday was “A Memlook Bey, Egypt,” an 1868 oil on panel by John Frederick Lewis, which fetched $1.6 million, more than three times its high estimate of $500,000.

The prices include the buyer’s premium; the estimates do not.

A drawing by Giovanni Antoni Canal, known as Canaletto, sold for $1.2 million, surging past its presale estimate range of $300,000 to $500,000.

“The Deer and the Lady, with Punchinello” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo brought $722,500, also surpassing its high estimate.

Bargains Fade

Items that seemed like bargains before the sale quickly rose in price. A giltwood box shaped as a pile of logs was estimated between $200 and $400; it sold for $21,250. A small ivory elephant adorned with rubies, emeralds and gold fetched $68,500, more than 10 times its low estimate.

A lot comprising two Chinese famille-rose boxes and covers of the Qianlong period fetched $494,500, almost 50 times their low estimate of $10,000.”

Astor’s numerous dog paintings and jewels are coming on the auction block today.

A Bulgari diamond necklace featuring 13 emerald drops is estimated between $250,000 and $350,000. An enlarged photograph of Astor wearing the necklace while standing next to former President Lyndon B. Johnson at a Plaza Hotel dinner dance was hung in the salesroom, along with photos of Astor and former President Bill Clinton and Princess Diana.

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on country matters.

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