Monday, November 24, 2014

Bunny Mellon Sale at Sotheby's

Bunny Mellon
She Was A Sellin'
Last week my sisters, Susan and Jeanne, and I, went to a yard sale at the tony auction house, Sotheby's. Rachel Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon's -- Bunny to her friends -- household belonging were auctioned off to benefit her horticultural foundation and library. Of course, I don't mean that old mops and half-empty jars of cold cream were sold (although there probably were some brooms). Oh no. This was the gentile contents of her multiple houses. For instance, in Upperville Virginia, there was a little 4,000 acre place called Oak Springs Farms and houses in Antigua, Nantucket and Cape Cod and a New York townhouse.
 Copper and white-painted wood octagonal building
cupola from Oak Springs Farms.
Sold for $13,750.
 Polished floors gleam at the Upper East Side 
headquarters of Sotheby's.
The auction preview covered 5 floors.
L-R, Susan, me and Jeanne.
Elevator doors and walls were adorned with
photo-murals from the Virginia farm.
Bunny Mellon was an heiress to a pharmaceutical fortune. Her father founded the Gillette Safety Razor Company and Warner L. Lambert Company. The product that brought in the dough was so much mouthwash, Listerine. As if her own money was not enough, she married Paul Mellon, heir to a banking fortune. Her pockets were as deep as the Grand Canyon, and she could buy anything she wanted. And what she wanted were old, chipped chairs and ceramic table-top items in the shapes of vegetables. Mrs. Mellon died in March, 2014 at the age of 103 while looking for a cauliflower soup tureen on EBay.
 American, 20th century dollhouse.
Sold for $4,688.
 Bunny was a great horticulturalist and gardener.
At President Kennedy's request, she designed the
White House Rose Garden.
Many of her pieces had themes from nature.
 A painted cabinet.
There were lots of dining tables and chairs and sets of china.
Someone will have a Bunny Thanksgiving.
 Bunny Mellon is considered to have had impeccable taste
and the confidence to mix things from different periods and sources.
She owned a lot of chairs. Of course with so many
houses, there was a whole lot of sittin' going on.
 Jeanne and Susan check a price in the catalog.
 Louis XV provincial fruit wood child's chair,
18th or 19th century.
Sold for $10,000.
 Many pieces of furniture were named after English kings.
This is a George III 4-poster bed which sold for $4,375.
Embroidered Oak Tree symbols on the
bed linens.
 The Mellons bankrolled the Yale Center for British Art.
This charming painted by Ellen Meehan shows the site of the Center in 
New Haven, Connecticut.
 The ultimate Shabby Chic.
A pair of these George III armchairs, circa 1775,
sold for $6,250. And you still have to pay to have them recovered!
 Sotheby staffers in snappy black aprons, stand by to assist.
Jeanne admires a Diebenkorn painting.
Most of Bunny's art collection, which included great works by Rothko,
was sold separately as were her jewels.
A blue diamond fetched over $30 million, and the buyer was from China.
 This Victorian cast-iron umbrella stand sold for $5,000.
 The nine walking sticks, including this Bunny one,
went for $11,250.
 These two diminutive Ben Nicholson gouache paintings
were Jeanne's favorites. The top one sold for $42,500 and
the lower one, for $57,500.
I offered to forge one for her, but
she thought that was terribly déclassé of me.
 These are fruit wood tea caddies from the late 18th century.
 The lived-in look living room.
The aesthetic is:
I can buy anything I want, but what I want are objects
owned by dead English people, tureens in the shape of cabbages
 and torn upholstery.
The Ann Redpath painting over the fireplace sold for $43,750
and the two George III papier-mache fans on the table in front, circa 1785, for $6250.
A bargain, already!
 Who's coming to dinner?
Jackie Kennedy thought Bunny's taste was the cat's pajamas,
and copied her style.
 Apparently you can never have too many asparagus soup tureens.
Chelsea basket.
 This pair of Chelsea asparagus tureens and covers c. 1755
sold for $118,750.
 Needlepoint pillow which was a gift from a friend of Bunny's.
 Collection of her Louis Vuitton luggage.
 I am admiring what I believe is a Giacometti sculpture of a bunny.
Bunny herself is in the photo, pruning an espaliered tree.
Don't you love her plain, little cotton skirt?
 My favorite thing in the preview was this 20th century dressing table,
which sold for $11,875.
 A comical rendition of horses ridden by monkeys.
The Mellons bred race horses and one of them, Sea Hero,
won the Kentucky derby in 1993.
 More monkeys. 
What is it with old-family money and monkeys? 
Or should I say old-family monkeys and money?
 An unfortunate use of perspective, or maybe intentionally funny, Bunny?
After the show, we went to lunch at the Eric Kayser cafe.
The baguettes were delicious, and my
Saint Honoré pastry was sublime.

À Bientôt!


  1. Wonderful photos, as usual. And you are looking spectacular!

  2. I lived just down the road from Bunny in VA and I came upon her one time while she was horseback riding down the back road upon which I was driving. I stopped my care because it was 90 weather and she was in full long sleeve wool Melton riding coat and her husband was with her equally dressed. I waved and they waved back. I didn't know who she was until I Googled the location on Google maps. She was right at the driveway leading to her estate. She looked so happy. I always thought it was so funny to see such elderly people upon horseback... just my bias I guess

  3. Another person who I would have liked to have met.
    She had to keep re writing her will 17 times, because all the people kept on dyeing she lived to 107
    Her husband was also a really nice person Paul.
    There are some people who are rich but also nice.
    They were both rich and both nice R.I.P Mr & Mrs Mellon