Auction Offers Slice of Mellon

New York -- This autumn, a series of sales at Sotheby’s will offer for sale one of the most important single owner collections ever to come to the market – that of Rachel 'Bunny' Lambert Mellon.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network cannot wait to peruse the Mellon auction catalog, when Sotheby's publishes it.

Intensely private, Mrs Mellon, who died earlier this year at the age of 103, devoted her life to five main passions: fashion, horses, art, interior design and gardens.

Many of those passions are reflected in her collection, which spans everything from fine art to jewelry and decoration. Together, the 2,000 or so items to be sold are set to realize over $150 million.

Proceeds will benefit The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, a charitable entity supporting horticultural and educational endeavors, established by Mrs. Mellon in memory of her father.

While the Mellons had bequeathed much of their art, like paintings and works on paper by van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin and Winslow Homer, to museums including the National Gallery, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, there is still much that has not been spoken for.

Among the stars of the collection are revered paintings by Rothko, shown above, and Diebenkorn that had been hanging on the walls of the National Gallery for decades. They were loans, not gifts.

Information is scant about what exactly these sales will contain, but they will consist of the contents from the Mellons’ residences both here and abroad, including Oak Spring Farm in Upperville, Va., where Mrs. Mellon spent the last years of her life; a townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; and the couple’s homes in Cape Cod, Antigua and Paris.

In addition to the Rothkos and Diebenkorns, the treasures include jewelry by great designers of the 20th century, among them Cartier and Verdura; antique French, English and American furniture; and examples of rare porcelains.

That Sotheby’s won the sale is not surprising. Mrs. Mellon’s longtime friend and lawyer, Alexander D. Forger, is an executor of her estate. He was also an executor for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s estate — and it was Sotheby’s that was chosen for that estate sale.

Private World

The Mellon sale is expected to provide a rich visual history and a peek into the world of one of this country’s most private couples.

Until his death in 1999, Paul Mellon, the son of Andrew W. Mellon, one of the world’s richest financiers and founder of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, was passionately involved with the National Gallery.

Over the years, he served as its president, chairman and honorary trustee, giving the institution more than 900 works, including Cézanne’s “Boy in a Red Waistcoat”; paintings by Rothko; animal sculptures by Alexander Calder; Winslow Homer’s “Dad’s Coming”; Picassos, Gauguins, Bonnards and Vuillards; a Manet; the original wax version of Degas’s “Little 14-Year-Old Dancer”; and postcards that had been written by van Gogh and Matisse.

Wealthy Childhood

Born in 1910 in Princeton, Mrs Mellon was the daughter of Gerard Lambert who had made his fortune marketing Listerine, a product invented by his father.

In 1948, she married Paul Mellon, the only son of financier Andrew Mellon, thereby uniting two of America’s most affluent families.

Throughout her life, she pursued a love of gardening, both at her own homes as well for a number of friends, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who asked her to redesign the White House Rose Garden in 1961.

Passionate about art, Mr. and Mrs. Mellon built an extraordinary collection, while generously supporting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and establishing the Yale Center for British Art.

Her Virginia estate had a mile-long runway for her private Falcon 2000 airplane, and a bronze statue of Sea Hero, the 1993 Kentucky Derby winner she owned.

Mrs. Mellon was famous for her understated eye and attention to detail, whether it was the kind of the food she served, the dishes she served them on or every part of the grounds surrounding her homes.

She designed the gatehouse to the couple’s property in Virginia and was known to have employed her own carpenter to build furniture of her own designs.

Notably loyal, Mrs. Mellon was dressed exclusively by Balenciaga until his retirement in 1968 and later only by Hubert de Givenchy.