Friday, 24 April 2009

The Doris Duke Auction: My Bidding List!

My British pals generally won't know that much about Doris Duke. The Lucky Strike cigarette heiress, once deemed the richest woman in the USA, was born in New York on 22 November 1912 and died in Beverly Hills, California on 28 October 1993. In many ways a Renaissance figure, she used her fortune to endow academic and charitable institutions on a stunning scale but her wealth did not bring her true love. Surprise, surprise. I only started looking into her life recently when I found out about the upcoming auction of contents from her properties Duke Farms and Falcon Lair. For a quick introduction to an extraordinary life, Hugo Vickers' elegant obituary of Duke in The Independent will inform and entertain you.

The Auction catalogue is very mixed and I felt intrusive going through her possessions with a critical eye. From some very heavy undistinguished stuff to the sublime art deco screen that Emily Evans Eerdmans* was on to first, it seems her domestic taste was eclectic and sometimes uncertain. I imagine she was well advised on set pieces by decorators like Tony Duquette but she had all the money in the world and maybe not the vision one might have wished for in terms of decorating.

I am not saying that there aren't many desirable pieces in this section of the auction. Nor does it do justice to her collection of antiquarian books and Asian art which have already gone under the hammer and are catalogued separately by Millea Bros.

Here is my fantasy bidding list. I haven't got anywhere to put it all but I'd still like to get my hands on it!

Two of a set of 10 French side chairs in the manner of Serge Roche.First half 20th Century

Tres Dorothy Draper like the paint treatment and delicious curtains below

Thomas White Lamb (1871-1942, American), theatre curtains designed for The Hollywood Wing theatre at Duke Farm

Decorative throw pillows 20th Century

Deco chrome-plated armchairs attributed to Gilbert Rohde First half 20th Century

Steinway & Sons model-L grand piano No. 259723, circa 1927

Something to put my photographs on

Pair old Venetian glass "Lily" wall sconces First half 20th Century, possibly Venini

These are mad but I can't resist them

American Classical style carved mahogany sleigh bed 19th Century

"Strumenti Musicali" plates by Piero Fornasetti

Group of antique green majolica table articles 19th & 20th Centuries, English and Japanese examples

Antique Chinese camellia leaf green Yuhuchun Ping vase

Lacquer ware

From a pair Regency style pagoda-form window valences/pelmets

George III style hall lantern by S.C. Bishop & Co.

Antique Neo-Grec bronze and scagliola coffee table

silver-plated backplate with central cut star and scrolling arms hung with pendant drops

Antique Japanese patinated bronze hare Meiji Period

Hand-hammered gilt metal chandelier in the manner of Josef Hoffman

Antique Dutch Delft tin-glazed pottery tile picture

Custom window treatment from Doris Duke's bedroom, Duke Farms 20th Century nickel-plated and glass/acrylic curtain rods and yellow silk curtain panel

Attributed to Boris Lovet-Lorski (1899-1973, American), painting First half 20th Century, three-panel floor screen

Custom Art Deco painted side table

Pair old Venetian glass "Lily" wall sconces First half 20th Century, possibly Venini

Japanese gilt bronze, enamel and white jade smoking set

Circle of Fausto Pirandello (1899-1975, Italian), painting

* Emily Evans Eerdmans writes one of my favourite blogs. She wears her (formidable) learning lightly so her posts are authoritative and entertaining. Her book Regency Redux is highly recommended.


  1. Oh Rose, you are too much. Thank you for the very kind words.

    I am devastated that I will be out of town during the DD sale viewing, but am definitely going to go for a few things. Those chairs you like were picked up in Paris by DD in the 30s and used in the dining room at Shangri-La. Before she turned it into a Turkish tented room, it was very moderne with fish tanks in the walls - pictures will be in my Veranda article which alas has been pushed back to the Fall.

  2. I thought some of these offerings seemed very inexpensive!

  3. late to say- isn't interesting that many well heeled bloggers picked so many different things from this auction- G

  4. I never found out how the auction went. Did the prices rise by much?

  5. I'll take those deco armchairs and
    that divine jade smoking set.

    (There was a moment in my life when I lived
    a few doors down from Miss Duke, on Bellevue in Newport.... .
    She was such a mystery presence even to her
    neighbors of many years)



Related Posts with Thumbnails