Byline: Aileen Mehle
For those who revel in the trappings of royalty — and I know you’re out there — Jerusalem was the place to be last week. In the city of King David, the Israel Museum opened a staggering show called “Princely Taste: Treasures from Great Private Collections,” a breathtaking exhibition of over 300 objects in gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones from six of the world’s major collections.
In the glittering throng to see the glittering display were Their Serene Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein. The prince, Hans Adam, tall and good looking enough to be a prince in a story book, flew in from the U.S. Their drop-dead beautiful, blonde daughter Princess Barbara blew in from Madrid, fresh from attending the magnificent three-day wedding of the King and Queen of Spain’s daughter, the Infanta Elena to handsome Don Jaime de Marichalar, a young French banker. The rumor goes that Princess Barbara is engaged to the King of Spain’s older son, Crown Prince Felipe, so if you put your faith in rumors, be my guest. Certainly the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs have always been closely attached to the Liechtensteins, so why not? Among them there’s enough blue blood to keep these august families thrilled from Royal tip to Serene toe.
Along with the Liechtensteins, the other great lenders to the exhibit were nine members of the legendary Rothschild family, who provided a virtual Ali Baba’s cave of priceless French enamels, silver from the treasure chests of German kings, books and porcelains from Marie Antoinette’s spectacular cache and other such awe-inspiring objects, all lending credence to the Rothschilds’ reputation as the greatest art collectors of modern times.
Every museum in the world has pleaded with the Rothschilds to loan their private collections, but they have always refused. But when Israel and Jerusalem asked, they relented. The Rothschilds have always been staunch supporters of first Palestine and later the new state, even though nowhere will you find so much as a plaque giving them credit.
Baron Guy de Rothschild, Baron and Baroness Elie de Rothschild (she is the esteemed Liliane, the presiding expert on art matters in this family of experts), Baron Edmond de Rothschild (the international chairman of the Israel Museum) and Nadine de Rothschild (one of France’s best-selling authors) all flew in from Paris for the opening. Other Rothschild lenders, Baron Robert, Baron Eric, Baroness Philippine (who owns France’s great Mouton-Rothschild winery) and Lord (Jacob) Rothschild of London are all coming to see their collections on June 14 when the museum celebrates its 30th birthday with 250 of its own friends and 200 more friends of Global Asset Management, which sponsored the show. Texas tycoon Sid Bass and his superchic wife, Mercedes, will be there as will Eliette von Karajan, widow of the famed conductor Herbert von Karajan, plus kings of finance and industry to burn.
Another visitor on June 14 will be Prince Adam Czartoryski de Bourbon, who has loaned treasures of incredible historical interest from his family foundation in Krakow, Poland. You should know that among Prince Adam’s possessions is the only Leonardo da Vinci in private hands, the “Lady with an Ermine,” which some art experts think is finer than the Mona Lisa. The “Lady” did not come to Israel, however, because, like the Mona Lisa, she doesn’t like to travel. But other invaluable Czartoryski objects are in the show, including an armoire belonging to Emperor Rudolf II, a gold and silver box that was the pride of King Augustus the Strong of Saxony and Poland, the jeweled war booty seized from the Turks in 1638 by Polish hero Jan Sobieski and much Frederic Chopin memorabilia. Chopin was a Czartoryski friend who often played at the palace-like Hotel Lambert on Paris’s Left Bank. That great pile built by the architect Le Vau, who was also responsible for Versailles, was bought from Prince Adam and his Czartoryski relatives decades ago by Guy and Marie Helene de Rothschild. So isn’t it nice that what goes around comes around and that they’re all meeting up in Jerusalem?
Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, “Heini” for short, has loaned 40 of the world’s most beautiful snuff boxes including that of Frederick the Great, a gigantic green stone studded with big rose diamonds set in gold. Think of what that must have cost Frederick first and Heini later. Heini couldn’t be there for the opening because he was busy receiving Spain’s highest decoration from King Juan Carlos. It’s tough at the top.
Two other lenders are Arthur Gilbert, the Los Angeles real estate tycoon, America’s foremost collector of English silver, princely treasures, mosaics and snuff boxes, and an anonymous “friend,” reputed to be the world’s most important collector. The millions and millions and more millions worth of his objects on display are, as one overcome if not exactly original viewer described them, “enough to blow the mind.” Maybe, in June, he’ll turn up in a mask.
You will be tickled to hear that the exhibition was masterminded by New York publisher Alexis Gregory, making his debut as a museum guest curator — so watch out, Philippe de Montebello. Alexis told the personage-filled audience that all one needs to do such a show is a bit of knowledge, the mindset of an art thief and loads of chutzpah, a word not secret to New Yorkers.
At a gala dinner to honor the Liechtensteins, a string quartet played Viennese waltzes, and the delicious food served was strictly kosher. “And that, my dear,” said a guest who has seen it all and done it all, “was the only kosher thing in the whole celebration.”
The excitement surrounding New York’s fashion week (March 30 to April 7) will not be contained in the Bryant Park tents alone. Donatella Versace is giving a party on April 4 at Laura Belle for Francois Nars, the famous makeup artist, who is launching his own line. (Say you’re surprised). Other chums expected are Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, who will all be gossiping about each other in the Krug Room, which will be designed by Donatella’s brother, Gianni Versace, using his very own home furnishings line. (Say you’re surprised). One hundred magnums of Krug Champagne will be popped and served to 600 guests, and in between sips of splits with multi-colored straws, supermodels, designers and celebrities will be pressing their lips and signing their names to a framed canvas. This will be auctioned along with other model-related items at a fall benefit for DIFFA underwritten by — tell me you’re surprised — Krug. In fact, Remi Krug, a fifth generation champagne maker, will fly from Paris at the finale of fashion week to present his company’s Best Runway Model Award to some lucky beauty. Previous winners have been Linda Evangelista, Nadja Auermann and Kristen McNemany. Listen, I can wait if you can.
Once again, peace has broken out between Brigitte Bardot and her beloved, Bernard d’Ormale. Bernard has capitulated to animal-adorer BB’s ultimatum: “Love me, love my dogs, cats, ponies, sheep, monkeys and pigs.” Yo, Bernie, don’t forget the potpourri.