SS Normandie murals to be auctioned in New York
Talk about off-the-wall presents. Guess you’d have to be a big fan of luxury passenger ships to buy your son a massive mural stripped from the famed ocean liner SS Normandie as a wedding gift.
On the big day in 1981, Malcolm Forbes slipped out to Christie’s to wage a winning bidding war to acquire Jean-Theodore Dupas’ The Birth of Aphrodite murals for his son, resident Robert Forbes, and his new wife, Lydia, for a then record-breaking $99,000.
The eight panels measuring more than 8 feet high and 10 feet wide will go on the block June 6 at Sotheby’s important design sale in New York. They’re estimated at $1 million.
“It’s not the sort of thing we hung in the house,” Robert Forbes told the New York Times. The murals were displayed in the family gallery at the financial magazine’s headquarters in Manhattan until the gallery closed in 2014. Since then they’ve been in storage.
“We figured, time to move them to somebody else who I hope will enjoy them,” Forbes told the Times.
The murals were part of a monumental 56-panel set depicting the History of Navigation that once decorated the Art Deco-style Grand Salon of the Normandie, deemed the biggest, fastest and most elegant passenger ship of its time when it set sail in 1935.
The vessel’s life was brief. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government requisitioned the ship, already docked after its home port of La Havre was occupied by the Germans, with plans to convert it into a troop ship. The vessel’s interior was stripped. During the conversion in 1942, the ship caught fire and capsized in New York waters.