A very per­sonal sale

Rock­e­feller art is in Lon­don ahead of a New York Christie’s auc­tion. By Kate Gor­don

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Auction -

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.


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.


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.


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

Prized items:

£35 mil­lion: Odal­isque Re­clin­ing with Mag­no­lias (1923) by Henri Matisse was at the Rock­e­fellers’ New York es­tate

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