The secret world of estate auctions: How jewellery lots are protected from the scandals surrounding New York's late society doyennes
18:58 GMT, 14 September 2012
An experienced auction goer has lifted the lid on saleroom antics, as the dazzling treasures owned by two of New York's most revered society women go under the hammer.
Referring to the forthcoming sales of property from the Brooke Astor and Kitty Carlisle Hart estates, writer Alexandra Peers – who has covered sales for more than two decades – describes how items are carefully presented to disassociate them from any scandal involving the respective owners.
Both women made radical alterations to their wills shortly before their deaths and Alzheimer sufferer Mrs Astor, who died in 2007 at the ripe age of 105, became the subject of a lawsuit as her son took financial advantage of her failing health.
High life: Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart pictured in 1938 (left) and Brooke Astor in her limousine in 1991 (right)
However Ms Peers notes that the auction catalogs omit any sad details and place emphasis on life as a fun-loving Manhattan socialite during the last century.
A description for the Sotheby’s: Brooke Astor sale, which features 900 personal items taken from the philanthropist's Park Avenue duplex apartment and country estate Holly Hill reads: 'The rooms and contents of both residences display a distinctive mix of comfort and refinement, and reveal a woman of elegance and grace.'
While Kitty Carlisle Hart, who controversially added a codicil to her her will that gave $50,000 to her housekeeper, is simply described as a 'well-known actress, television celebrity and arts advocate'.
Ms Peers writes in Newsweek: 'They’re sanitized: the story told in the frontispiece, before you get to the goods, is the one most likely to boost the bottom line, cater to heirs, and burnish the reputation of the seller.'
Dazzling: Some of Kitty Carlisle Hart's jewellery to be featured in the Sotheby's Important Jewels sale
Grandeur: The Sotheby's catalog showcases one of Mrs Astor's lavish properties
Brooke Astor, who was born in 1902 in New Hampshire, married her third husband Vincent Astor in 1954.
Soon after she became chairwoman of the Vincent Astor Foundation, which had been established by Mr Astor who was the son of John Jacob Astor IV and great-great grandson of America's first multi-millionaire, John Jacob Astor.
After his death in 1959, she administered his vast fortune, collecting Louis XV-style objects, and in an interview with the Architectural Digest, she said: 'I hope it will be many years before they find their way into the auction rooms.'
In 2009 her son Anthony Marshall, was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from her as she battled mental health issues.
Antique chic: Mrs Astor's ornaments and
decorative accents like these Chinese lamps and George III mirror date
back hundreds of years and were purchased in different parts of the
Treasures: The 900 items up for auction include
priceless designer jewels including this emerald necklace and ring set
and diamond and gold lion brooch
Priceless: William Nedham's A Toy Spaniel and a Springer Spaniel in a Landscape is just one of the many paintings of dogs owned by the late Mrs Astor
The Elizabeth Taylor estate-auction failed to mention three of her seven husbands
Kitty Carlise Hart, born in in New Orleans, Louisiana came to prominence during the Thirties, as an entertainer and actress.
In 1946 she married the Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright Moss Hart, who collaborated with George
Kaufman on such Broadway hits as Once in a Lifetime, and they
enjoyed a lavish lifestyle until Moss’s death in 1961.
In January 2007, less than three months before her death her attorney Herbert Nass, author of Wills of the Rich and Famous reveals that she added a codicil to her will.
It raised a gift to her housekeeper from $10,000 to $50,000 and added an
elaborate clause to ensure both her children would both inherit equally.
Ms Peers also reveals that the Elizabeth Taylor estate-auction, which featured dozens of paintings, jewelry and fashions belonging to the late star, failed to mention three of her seven husbands.
Adding: 'Jackie Kennedy’s highlighted JFK’s golf clubs but largely omitted the name 'Onassis.''
The Sotheby’s: Property From the Estate of Brooke Astor sale will take place on the 24th and 25th of September and it is expected it will raise a total of $6 million to $9 million.
It was originally set for April but had to be a cancelled.
The jewels and mementos of Kitty Carlisle Hart will be sold on September 20th.