The belongings of the late Barbara Walters are to be sold at auction on November 6, through Bonham’s auction house. The 300 lots of art, jewelry, and decorative items in her Upper East Side home, which was listed earlier this year for $19.75 million, are expected to generate around $8 million. Despite the pricetag, these items collectively tell a story of an American icon, her professionalism and exquisite taste.
“Barbara’s collection portrays a powerful, educated, and exquisitely elegant woman. You see a strong sense of femininity seen in the ornate furniture and paintings of idyllic scenes. What sets her collection apart is its eclectic nature; she juxtaposed classical decor with bold, contemporary statement pieces,” Anna Hicks, Head of Department for Furniture and Decorative Arts at Bonhams in Los Angeles tells T&C. ” She surrounded herself with a treasure trove of trinkets; reminders of her remarkable career, extensive travels, and items from cherished friends and family members.”
Perhaps her art collection, much of which is a part of the sale, speaks to her educated collection. According to Morgan Martin, Head of the Department for American Art at Bonhams in New York, Walters frequented the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where paintings by John Singer Sargent sit. “This likely guided her decision in acquiring Egyptian Woman as the counterpart, Madam X, hangs in the Met along with two other paintings featuring the same sitter in Egyptian Woman,” Martin says. From Walters’s auction, the painting is expected to sell for $1.2 million- $1.8 million. Many of the books that are also to be sold include many by Sargent. “Egyptian Woman is an incredibly important painting and a rare portrait by the artist. It’s a testament to her impeccable judgment.”
Other pieces of art in the collection include Flower Girls (Peonies) by Childe Hassam (estimate: $1-1.5 million) and a sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (estimated: $350,000 – 450,000).
If the late Barbara Walters hadn’t been a sharp, educated journalist, she may have been remembered as one of New York’s glittering socialites. She frequented the Met Gala when Diana Vreeland was at the helm, before it became a celebrity spectacle, and sat front row of the fashion shows of Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, and Ralph Rucci. As a member of the social circle called The Harpies—a group of accomplished women in their respective fields which included Liz Smith, Jennifer Maguire Isham, and publicists Peggy Siegal and Maurie Perl—Walters was seen throughout her life rubbing shoulders with New York’s elite, all while reporting on them.
The sale speaks to Walters’s evening glamour. She famously donned highly coveted jewels including a 13-karat diamond engagement ring from Merv Adelson (estimated to sell for $600,000-$900,000) and a ruby and diamond floral brooch which she famously wore at the Eighth annual Night of Stars fashion festival at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1991 where she was pictured alongside Audrey Hepburn. The sale will include a total of 120 pieces of her jewelry.
“When Barbara got ready every day, both her clothes and her jewelry played a huge part in her presentation. The vast majority of her jewels are big and bold – just like her personality. She was very diplomatic with how she wore her jewelry, often mixing costume with real, but her look was never complete without a pair of earrings and a big brooch or necklace,” Caroline Morrissey, Director and Head of Jewelry at Bonhams in New York says.
With a busy social circle, Walters became a master hostess and made sure that her cabinets were filled with the necessities of a successful dinner party. When your frequent guests include Dr. Henry and Nancy Kissinger, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Hugh Jackman, there are simply no exceptions to not being well equipped. Included in the sale are numerous pieces of silver and china dining sets and many of her hosting ephemera were monogrammed with “BW.” According to Hicks, her favorite porcelain service was her Royal Crown Derby Imari.
They say that stories may be told through art, jewelry, and other material goods. Barbara Walters: American Icon, is a prime example of this.
To register, please visit bonhams.com.