Can We Talk About Joan Rivers Private Collection at Christie’s?

“As possibly the hardest working person in (show) business” according to Jonathan Rendell, deputy chairman of Christie’s, Joan Rivers really must have believed that old adage — living well is the best revenge. “She had a great eye and collected serious stuff,” he continued. Her lovingly restored palatial triplex penthouse which included a ballroom where she famously entertained, in a Horace Trumbauer building on East 62nd Street housed her exquisitely curated collection of fine French and English furniture, artwork, rugs, jewels, clothing and accessories and was sold last year for $28 million. Joan used to quip that she” lived like Marie Antoinette if she had had money.”

Jonathan Rendell Gives His Opening Remarks

Now her daughter Melissa is selling off some of the contents at Christie’s in a live auction on June 22nd and an online auction which has already begun and will end on June 23rd. There are over 200 lots offered for live sale and approximately 80 lots in the online sale with price estimates ranging from $500 up to $200,000.

Left to right — Worn to Playboy Magazine 35th Anniversary Celebration at Windows on the World, Dec. 1, 1988, Worn to 2003 Emmy’s, Oscar de la Renta that was famously shortened

This morning I attended the press preview for The Private Collection of Joan Rivers — the galleries are now open to the public. There’s no doubt that viewing this collection gives anyone who admired and misses Joan, a degree of sadness but of course, it is still fascinating at the same time. As Joan was a well-known philanthropist, proceeds are being donated to God’s Love We Deliver and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Assorted evening jackets

Joan was also the hardest working volunteer for these charities — “She was the first to pick up the Thanksgiving meals and take them to people and had a special relationship with animals,” continued Rendell. Even Spike’s silk upholstered dog house and silver engraved Tiffany bowl are offered for sale.

Navy and Black Chanel Handbags

Joan was a contrast in extremes in her personal style as well. A petite woman who was often seen in large, over the top  jewelry, she was also a devotee and collector of smaller art nouveau flower brooches and tiny Faberge items such as frames, eggs, and other small talismans. These were items with she “lived wit,” and enjoyed handling rather than locking away in a display cabinet. She had a “personal and professional obsession” with Russian things in particular as she was descended from Russian furriers. Many of these smaller pieces inspired her QVC jewelry line– she made egg pendants and other treasures accessible to everyone.

Verdura Wood Cuffs; Pearl, Diamond and Enamel Indian Necklace

She collected not only top designer jewelry including Buccellati, David Webb and Cartier, but also some lesser known designers such as a giant torsade of freshwater pearls and multi-gems by Cezua, and several necklaces of of Iradj Moini including one important one of tumbled rubies, emeralds and amethysts. These can be found in adjacent cases with photos of her wearing each, accompanied by Melissa.

Cezua Freshwater Pearl Necklace worn in the Front Row at a Runway Show

In several online videos Melissa recounts how it was very difficult for her to decide what to part with from her mother’s collections. She mentions that many of the things that she kept had more sentimental value (Joan’s toothbrush cup and soap dish), than intrinsic value to anyone else. As for specialized items such as the Faberge pieces she adds that her mom would have wanted them to find a new home with someone who would enjoy them.  “You’re really only the caretaker of these items,” Melissa explains, reminding me of a tag line for a fine watch or car commercial.

Four necklaces

Christie’s public viewing times are today until 4 p.m., Saturday 10 – 5 p.m., Sunday 1 – 5 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday from 11- 4 p.m.. The auction catalog: click here.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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