Thousands may have wondered what the life of Lee Radziwill was really like, and now many can get a glimpse at Christie’s.
Furniture, books, personal belongings, costume jewelry, photography and sunglasses are among the style setter’s possessions that will go under the hammer later this month at the auction house. As of 10 a.m. Friday morning and running through Oct. 15, visitors can check out The Collection of Lee Bouvier Radziwill at the Rockefeller Center location. The sale will be held Oct.17. Watercolors of botanicals painted by Radziwill, Peter Beard-shot photography, Art Deco chairs and albums from Radziwill’s trip to Pakistan and India with her First Lady sister Jacqueline Kennedy will be in the mix.
Different vignettes — such as a perfectly set dining room table, an entranceway “charming mahogany setee” with reverse painted Indian mirrors and a library-type setting of books and shelves — are arranged just as Radziwill’s well-appointed eye once had imagined them, according to Christie’s Elizabeth Seigel. The intercontinental Radziwill’s many pursuits and interests included interior design, acting, art and travel. As a teenager, she started a correspondence with the Renaissance art historian Bernard Berenson.
Radziwill carried certain pieces through the years in her different homes and paid homage to her preferred interior designer Renzo Mongiardino with select pieces. Radziwill once said, “I abhor the American idea of starting with a tabula rasa every few years and getting rid of everything. When I buy something, I do so with the intention of keeping it for ever. I’m constantly falling in love with objects, and they follow me around the world.”
Mongiardino’s furniture is expected to spark competitive bidding at the Radziwill sale, as was the case with sale of the contents of Drue Heinz’s town houses at Christie’s earlier this year, Seigel said. The “beautifully bound” travelogue of the famed sisters’ 1962 diplomatic visit to India is “just so fun to flip through whether it’s Jackie Kennedy in front of the Taj [Mahal] or them being entertained by various dignitaries. It’s just a wonderful snapshot of the era, the travel and the romance of it all,” Seigel said. “I think everyone is going to go wild for her sets of sunglasses, especially the two pairs of Gucci sunglasses that have just what you would expect — the wide oval frames. They are so iconic of her chic look. Another highlight is a charm bracelet that has moonstones and a gold charm that indicates it was a gift from Lee to her sister Jackie on he occasion of her 20th birthday. That was right when she was going off to study in Paris. Interestingly that Lee then got it back is a wonderful testament to their relationship and sisterhood,” Seigel said.
Weighing the historic relevance, she said, “Their importance in our social narrative is unparalleled. We tried our best to share the woman who Lee Radziwill was and how she would like to be remembered.”
Seigel said she was surprised to learn that Radziwill lived a fairly simple life in New York. With numerous friends through the decades such as Truman Capote, Rudolf Nureyev, Giorgio Armani, Marc Jacobs, Sofia Coppola and Andy Warhol, Radziwill was really more interested in her relationships “than these more tangible things that we are selling,” Seigel said. “This is just a small part of who she was, but hopefully we are able to capture a small piece of her to share with the world.”
Christie’s executives could not comment on what the Radziwill estate’s plans are for her wardrobe.