Ge­bran Khalil Ge­bran let­ters, draw­ings, sell for $183,750 at auc­tion

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Vic­to­ria Yan

BEIRUT: A col­lec­tion of 33 let­ters and draw­ings by Ge­bran Khalil Ge­bran to his lover Madame Marie Azeez el-Khoury was auc­tioned for over $180,000 Tues­day – around four times its pre-es­ti­mated value.

The auc­tion took place at Sotheby’s Dubai, where mul­ti­ple bid­ders sought to claim own­er­ship over var­i­ous items in the col­lec­tion. The auc­tion was “highly con­tested,” a press re­lease from the art dealer said.

A spokesper­son for Sotheby’s present at the auc­tion could not be reached in time for pub­li­ca­tion, but Abi­gail Tavener, a ju­nior press of­fi­cer at Sotheby’s in London, told The Daily Star that the col­lec­tion was dis­persed among mul­ti­ple buy­ers.

Ul­ti­mately, the let­ters and draw­ings in the col­lec­tion were sep­a­rated into four lots. Lot 60, 61 and 63 were pur­chased by pri­vate col­lec­tors and Lot 62 was sold to an anony­mous buyer.

The orig­i­nal fig­ure for the col­lec­tion was placed at be­tween $42,000 and $54,000, but the works were sold for a com­bined to­tal of $183,750.

Ac­cord­ing to a Sotheby’s de­scrip­tion, “This ex­ten­sive group of let­ters brings to light the last ma­jor col­lec­tion of Ge­bran mem­o­ra­bilia whose ex­is­tence was prac­ti­cally un­known un­til re­cently.”

The let­ters pro­vide a win­dow into Ge­bran’s con­nec­tion with Khoury.

“I am yearn­ing for the golden corner that is filled with quiet and si­lence – and now, I stole an hour from my friends and came to a room to be alone and talk to you to re­vive my spirit with ideas and dreams that swim around my head when I sit alone and think of you,” Ge­bran wrote in one let­ter.

May Ri­hani, di­rec­tor of the Ge­orge and Lisa Zakhem Khalil Ge­bran Chair for Val­ues and Peace at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, worked first-hand with the let­ters fol­low­ing their re­cent ac­qui­si­tion by Sotheby’s. “Ge­bran and Khoury had an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship,” Ri­hani said. “They met in the United States when Khoury de­cided to or­ga­nize din­ner par­ties for Le­banese Amer­i­can in­tel­lec­tu­als.”

Ri­hani’s un­cle, Ameen Ri­hani, a Le­banese Amer­i­can writer and in­tel­lec­tual, was in­vited to the din­ners at­tended by Khoury and Ge­bran.

“I re­mem­ber when I was a lit­tle girl in Le­banon grow­ing up, my fa­ther used to talk to me about these peo­ple. When he went to study at Columbia Univer­sity in New York, he was in­vited with his brother to join these din­ners,” she said.

Born in Mount Le­banon in 1882, Khoury moved to New York as a child with her fam­ily. Ac­cord­ing to Ri­hani, she grad­u­ated from an Amer­i­can col­lege in 1900 – a sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment for an Arab Amer­i­can woman. “She mar­ried soon af­ter col­lege, but her husband died only two years af­ter,” Ri­hani said. De­spite the loss, Khoury worked to take over the fam­ily jew­elry busi­ness in New York, find­ing suc­cess as an en­tre­pre­neur. Fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s death in 1905, 22-year-old Khoury main­tained stores on Man­hat­tan’s up­scale Park and Fifth av­enues.

The let­ters pro­vide a win­dow into Ge­bran’s con­nec­tion with Khoury.

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