Despite receiving a cease and desist letter from attorneys representing Oleg Cassini’s widow Marianne, Doyle New York appears to be going forward with its plans to auction the designer’s estate.
Cassini, who befriended and helped define Jacqueline Kennedy’s signature style as First Lady, was an art collector in his own right. After sending an e-flier touting the sale to clients in 92 countries earlier this month, the auction house updated its site on Wednesday to list some of the items that will go under the gavel. It also pushed back the date for the auction to June 27 from June 6. Prior to the main event at Doyle’s East 87th Street offices, the company plans to stage a three-day on-site exhibition from June 22 to 24 at Cassini’s 43-acre home in Oyster Bay. Between 750 and 800 lots are still being photographed on the property, according to someone familiar with the sale. The catalogue is expected to be completed next week, according to a Doyle executive.
A Doyle executive deferred comment regarding the cease and desist letter to its two consignors — the New York City’s Sheriff’s Office, which seized the East 19th Street town house, and the Nassau County court appointed Receiver Rosalia Baiamonte.
Fashion memorabilia, clothing, accessories, autograph letters, luxury automobiles, arms and armor, artwork, Continental and English furniture, decorations, silver and other pieces from the Gramercy Park town house on 19th Street and from the Oyster Bay Cove manse are slated to be auctioned. Estimates for various items include a 1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur for $8,000 to $12,000. Doyle also has listed personal letters that were written to the designer including a nine-page letter from Jacqueline Kennedy during her White House years — estimated between $10,000 to $15,000 — and a bundle of four autographed letters from Grace Kelly — $5,000 to $8,000.
A few of the pricier items on the auction house’s site are a George I Giltwood and Gilt-Gesso Pier table attributed to James Moore that is expected to be auctioned between $30,000 and $50,000 and a composite suit of three-quarter etched and gold embellished armor estimated from $30,000 to $40,000. Puiforcat Silver Vauban is listed from $15,000 to $25,000 and a Louis XVI ormolu-mounted burr olive and mahogany bureau à Cylindre listed between $12,000 to $18,000. There is also a pair of signed portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth estimated between $1,000 and $1,500 and a Dodie Thayer green glazed cabbage-shaped ceramic table service with an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. And there are also 18 large sketches of mostly eveningwear at $1,000 to $1,500.
Cassini, who died in 2006 at the age of 92, is widely known for dressing Jackie Kennedy during her White House years and for being romantically linked to Princess Grace of Monaco before she married Prince Rainier. For decades during Cassini’s lifetime and after his death, Marianne Cassini and her sister Peggy Nestor have led the New York-based Oleg Cassini Inc. The fragrance business is Oleg Cassini Parfums.
Nestor Cassini has had court battles with her late husband’s offspring for more than 13 years. John Barnosky, the attorney for the four children of Tina Cassini, was unavailable Thursday, according to a representative in his Uniondale, N.Y., office.
In late January, Nestor Cassini was released after being held for six months in a Nassau County jail for defying a judge’s order to turn over financial statements and business records, among other material. At that time, she described the incident as “an abuse of power” and alleged the judge breached her own served order.
In a letter to Doyle’s senior vice president Peter Costanzo dated May 10, J. Vincent Reppert wrote how Doyle “is well aware” that Marianne Cassini “has been embroiled in extensive litigation in connection with the estate.” He also referred to how she while she was “wrongfully imprisoned, her personal affects among other things were packed up by the court’s receiver and designees from her home and residences.” He also noted that personal items were also taken from the home owned by her sister Peggy Nestor and Marianne Cassini and not in the name of the estate. Oleg Cassini rented the building from the two sisters, said Reppert, who works for the law firm Reppert Kelly & Vytell.
He advised that Cassini is not a public figure and she has not authorized Doyle to use her image, nor any of her photos and personal items for the purpose of promoting its commercial sales. Reppert said, “All of these things are being challenged in court.”
Cassini said she previously served on the board of directors at the now-defunct Derempich art gallery and “a lot of the things were purchased through Derempich gallery from Christie’s and Sotheby’s. I have never bought or sold anything through Doyle. It’s really a third-rate gallery. I would never do an auction through Doyle. You would never out Oleg Cassini at Doyle gallery. It deserves much better” Cassini said. “I have receipts, invoices and canceled checks for 90 percent of the items. Some of the things go as far back as the Seventies. I purchased these things myself. Even if I don’t have the receipt, I also have [information about] where and when I purchased it,” she said.
Costanzo, Baiamonte and a representative at New York City Sheriff’s offices did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Cassini claimed she presented “an entire list of things through the court to this judge who held me in contempt on a motion that she severed herself. The whole thing is so incredibly wrong and so incredibly against the American way. This is like Germany or Poland in the Forties. You don’t go into people’s houses, break the doors, break the locks and steal all their stuff. Even my house on 19th Street, some of that stuff belongs to Peggy [Nestor]. Nobody asked, they just emptied the whole thing out, ripped a painting from 1870 that was over the fireplace. It’s disgusting that people can do that in the United States….I have receipts for every single thing but nobody bothered to look at them — a listing of where it was bought, when, where and why. This is going to be a major lawsuit and probably even a big movie.”