Friday, September 28, 2012

From the Estate of Brooke Astor, Part Two: 778 Park Avenue

 One more day of humoring me with the Brooke Astor auction, please. 

Today we'll take a look at the fabled Park Avenue duplex Mrs. Astor called home for nearly fifty years. Many of the pieces auctioned off (indeed, looking at the auction catalogue, pretty much everything was auctioned off) fetched higher than the estimated prices. Some surprised even the auctioneer as the bids were driven higher and higher. To New Yorkers, Brooke Astor was a hero, and many things were going to sell for higher prices simply because of their provenance. Seriously, if you have time, scroll through the results just for fun. The prices are crazy, and you'll be able to see almost everything you see in these rooms, and how much they sold for.

Sotheby's had estimated the auction would bring in $6.6 million (as the low estimate) for the two day, four session sale. By the end of the first session on Monday morning the sale had already $6.7 million. In all, the two day auction brought in $18.8 million for Mrs. Astor's various charities. One of the showstoppers being her nearly 23 carat  Van Cleef & Arpels emerald engagement ring selling for $1.2 million

Sorry the picture quality is so awful.

778 Park Avenue stands at the northwest corner of East 73rd street and Park Avenue. Built in 1931 by Rosario Candela, 778 is still a much sought after address, if you can get past the cash only policy for purchasing, as well as the formidable co-op board. It is rumored that the board requires potential buyers to show at least three times the purchase price of any apartment in assets. Brooke Astor's apartment was originally listed for $46 million, although the price was slashed and it finally sold for around $21 million. 
The "Only In New York!" floor plan.
The bright, light drawing room.

Looking south towards the famous red lacquered library.
I love this photo of the north wall. A bit granny, yes, but also rather wonderfully mellowed.
Looking into the dining room from the gallery.
The pink and green dining room with it's silver set in all it's glory. 

This is a before picture of the then wood paneled library, before Brooke called in famed decorator Albert Hadley.

The redone library with the red lacquered and brass trimmed walls. This painting of an Egyptian man from 1868 sold for around $1.6 million.
The library looking north towards the entrance gallery and the drawing room. Nothing had changed in years, except the portrait over the fireplace.
For years Mrs. Astor proudly displayed her favorite painting "Flags, Fifth Avenue" ("Up the Avenue From 34th Street") by Childe Hassam.

There is a very horrid tale of elder abuse in the tale of this painting. But the short of it is that Brooke's son, Anthony Marshall, sold this painting while his mother was in the midst of the dementia that she succumbed to in her final years. It was promised to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but he sold it for $10 million (and took a $2 million dollar commission) having told his mother that she needed the money (her income was between $5 and $6 million at the time). According to her butler, when her son told her he had sold it, Mrs. Astor asked "Now can I buy dresses?"

The oval sitting room off the library.
Brooke's bedroom decorated by Sister Parrish.
This listing photo shows a rather different room, with most of the same furnishings reupholstered. I prefer the original...but not the pink bed drapes.
I think this sitting room was the second bedroom on the main floor, off the master bedroom. Pictures, gilding, chintz, and books-Mrs. Astor's quintessential style.