The name Rockefeller is often taken as synonymous with collector and in the spring of 2018, Christie’s will offer the exquisitely expansive treasury of Peggy and David Rockefeller at auction. They have just unveiled a few highlights from the collection which started its global tour in Hong Kong over the weekend and I had to share the finery! From almost priceless works of art to incredible dinner services, the sale of these esteemed items will contribute to the most significant philanthropic auction ever held. Ready for a glimpse of the goods?
Decadent Dessert Service
Made especially for Emperor Napoleon I of France by Sèvres porcelain, this ‘Marly Rouge’ dessert service boasts a fascinating provenance and delicious details. Papillons et fleurs decorate two sugar bowls, an ice-pail and the rest of the service created between 1807-09. It lived briefly at the palace of Fontainebleau and was brought with Napoleon to exile on the island of Elba. This rare delivery has not been seen on the art market for 75 years since Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired the pieces and it is estimated to bring in $150,000-250,000.
Make it a Monet
Acquired by Peggy and David in 1956 from a Parisian dealer with the guidance of MoMa’s first director, Alfred Barr, this striking rendition of the garden at Giverny is one of the largest canvases Claude Monet ever worked on. During World War I, Monet had a period of inspired creativity in which he created gloriously vibrant pieces celebrating the splendor of his beloved home. Most likely painted in late afternoon, the dark purple waters and glowing white lillies drew the Rockefellers in immediately. David Rockefeller had the distinct experience of watching his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, co-found the Museum of Modern Art and subsequently developed his keen eye for fine art.
Rose Period Pick
This gorgeous ode to the bohemian lifestyle of the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso hung in the Rockefeller’s New York townhouse library for decades. It came to be theirs when David assembled a group of prominent art collectors to purchase pieces from the renown Gertrude Stein collection. Numbers written on slips of paper were tossed into a hat, Rockefeller serendipitously picked “1” and was able to secure he and Peggy’s first choice, Young Girl with a Flower Basket. The two had a rule when buying art that they both had to like the piece before purchasing it and that little caveat served them well as collectors!
The Golden God
The Rockefeller family’s strong ties to Asia, both cultural and charitable, are to thank for the bevy of significant artifacts from the region in their collection. Take, for example, this astounding mostly gold and brass statue of Amitayus, the god of long life in Chinese Buddhism. It was commissioned by the Kangxi Emperor during his reign from 1662 to 1722 and crafted in an imperial workshop. It is estimated to be in the $400,000-600,000 range and would look quite nice on a mantle, don’t you think?
Dinner party guests of Peggy and David’s would have been treated to courses served on Chinese export porcelain emblazoned with the “Rockefeller pattern.” It is the most elaborate pattern of all the great China Trade produced dinner services with sepia and gilt borders ensconcing intricate Chinese scenes, each one unique. Once belonging to David’s parents Abby and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. he and his brother Nelson enjoyed adding pieces to the large collection over the years. It’s so nice to hear of fine china actually being used, if those plates could talk I’m sure they’d have vivid tales of fabulous parties past!
Drumroll please… This is the most significant Matisse work to be up for auction in a generation, as well as the highest estimated work of Henri’s to ever grace the bidding block. Painted in 1923, this piece was a special opportunity for Matisse to introduce his best work for comparison against that of past masters. The reclining female is said to have been one of the greatest paintings by the artist to be owned privately. Rich brushwork and brilliant hues made Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias a standout in the Rockefeller’s Hudson Pines Home.
Although these auction highlights don’t exactly inspire dreams of finding a Rockefeller steal or deal, fear not! Christie’s will be offering treasures from porcelains to jewels with bid estimates starting at just $200. You can begin placing bids on the historied Peggy and David Rockefeller collection next spring with live auctions taking place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries or online. Get your paddles ready, dears, it’s all for a good cause!