A very personal sale
Rockefeller art is in London ahead of a New York Christie’s auction. By Kate Gordon
DAVID ROCKEFELLER caught the collecting bug early when, aged seven, he stumbled across a much-wanted long-horned beetle. From not-so-humble beginnings — his grandfather was America’s first billionaire — the banking scion and his wife, Peggy, created one of the most personal and legendary art collections of our time.
What’s well known is how the couple, who married in 1940, benefited from expert advice at the start. David’s mother was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and David, who died last year aged 101, liked to say that he was born there, as his childhood home was on the site of what is now the museum. Less well known, but set to be revealed at a forthcoming international Christie’s sale, is how he and Peggy’s collection represents their legendary and very personal taste.
TAKING TREASURES AROUND THE WORLD
The sale will be at Christie’s flagship auction rooms at Rockefeller Centre in New York, with a different selection of items available to view in London, Paris, Beijing, LA and Shanghai. However, a Picasso and a Matisse will make it to every stop. The Picasso, a nude, Young Girl with a Flower Basket (1905), is a masterpiece with a high estimate in the sale of £50 million. Originally owned by writer Gertrude Stein, she admitted she didn’t like it when her brother bought it for about £20 in 1905.
Odalisque Reclining with Magnolias (1923) by Matisse, estimated at £35 million, hung at the Rockefellers’ Hudson Pines country estate. Claude Monet’s Waterlilies in Flower (19141917) was at their summer home.
FISHY LONDON MUST-SEE
Don’t leave the London viewing without seeing a pair of tureens modelled as flounders, made in Chelsea circa
above, Monet’s Waterlilies in Flower (1914-1917); far right, Picasso’s Young Girl with a Flower Basket (1905) is estimated to fetch £50 million; right, a very rare Chinese dragon bowl dated 1426-1435, set to fetch £71,000-£106,000 1755, estimated at £56,000-£85,000. Amusingly, the ladles are eels holding shells, and the flounders’ tail fins curl up, forming handles. This mimicry would have signalled to the guests the host’s interest in the natural world.
OYSTERS ROCKEFELLER: DINNER IS SERVED
Ceramics certainly form an important part of the collection. David and Peggy owned 67 dinner services, but undoubtedly the one to attract the most attention will be the Marly Rouge Sèvres dinner service owned by Napoleon and taken with him in exile to Elba, with an estimate of £105,000£140,000. Incredibly rare is a Chinese blue-and-white “dragon bowl” dated 1426-1435 and estimated at £71,000£106,000. Christie’s experts found it tucked away in the Rockefeller summer home in Maine. Decorated with dragons concealed on the inside of the bowl, rendered in a special technique known as “anhua” or “hidden decoration”, this delightful piece was created during the very height of porcelain production.
David’s grandfather and father were strict Baptists and the idea of philanthropy, was a way of life. This Christie’s auction is certainly the most important charity sale ever to take place, and is
£35 million: Odalisque Reclining with Magnolias (1923) by Henri Matisse was at the Rockefellers’ New York estate