Sales of Mellon Collection close on a high

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Untitled, 1970, by Mark Rothko

The third and final of Sotheby’s New York auctions of Property from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon drew to a close last night in New York, bringing the series total to $218.1 million.

The three-day Interiors auction – offering fine art, furniture, porcelain, silver, glassware, decoration and more from Mrs. Mellon’s residences in the United States and abroad – finished the series, more than doubling expectations to achieve $14.3 million.

Sotheby’s auctions of the Mellon Collection offered 1,551 lots in total – 98.1% of which were sold – and together had been estimated in excess of $100 million. Proceeds from the sales will benefit The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, a charitable entity established by Mrs. Mellon in memory of her father. The Foundation supports horticultural and educational endeavors.

Elaine Whitmire, Vice Chairman and Head of Sotheby’s Single Owner Sales Department, commented:

“Mrs. Mellon was a woman not only of exceptional taste and style – she had a vision, and that is an even greater rarity. It has been wonderful to witness the response over the last six months from collectors, longtime admirers, and those learning about Mrs. Mellon’s life, eye and passions for the first time.

“I did not have the privilege of knowing her personally, but after our months spent with the collection at Oak Spring Farms this spring, and extending through to our exhibitions and sales this fall, everyone involved is coming away with a deep admiration for her. It has been an honour for Sotheby’s to present Mrs. Mellon’s collection.”

Top lots from across the series of auctions included two paintings by Mark Rothko that both exceeded expectations: Untitled from 1970, which achieved $39,925,000 (est. $15/20 million), and Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange) from 1955, which fetched $36,565,000 (est. $20/30 million). Both works had remained in the Mellons’ collection for more than four decades.

In last night’s auction, Henri le Sidaner’s 1929 canvas La nappe mauve, Villefranche-sur-Mer  fetched $437,000 (est. $250/350,000). Strong prices for porcelain throughout the five sessions were highlighted by a Chinese Export Porcelain ‘Pseudo Tobacco Leaf’ Part Service, circa 1775-85, which nearly doubled its high estimate to sell for $293,000.

Three sculptures by Mrs. Mellon’s longtime friend Diego Giacometti each smashed its estimate, including Table basse trapézoidale, modèle aux harpies that sold for $245,000 (est. $50/70,000) and his sculpture of the Mellons’ champion horse Mill Reef that brought $149,000 – more than 20 times its high estimate.