Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This small gem-strewn elephant belonged to Brooke Astor (1902-2007). According to the Sotheby's 2012 auction catalog, she bought it "in the retail trade" at Van Cleef & Arpells during an inspired moment of mid-20-century shopping. Sotheby's pre-sale estimate for this objet was $6,000-$8,000. When bidding ended it had sold for $68,500. One journalist wrote that a celebrity provenance typically produced exactly this effect of a ten-fold increase in the normal market value of anything.

Below, an often-photographed room in Mrs. Astor's Park Avenue duplex  the brass-trimmed, red lacquer library conceived and realized in collaboration with decorator Albert Hadley.

This once-startling room  crimson-soaked  opened onto several alternative spaces of relative serenity.

Below, the overscaled giltwood mirror hanging on a sitting room wall in the weekend house is proving useful at assisting me in consoling myself for the evident exhaustion of the giltwood impulse.