By Corey Cripe
Working in the decorative arts department, rarely do things cross my desk that my friends think are exciting and “cool.” They all want the arms and armor, luxury accessories or sports catalogues. None of them will take a peek in the silver catalogue, even though their good friend Corey wrote it. The past few weeks, some things have crossed my desk that even my friends have liked on Facebook, so I guess that means that finally, I have something worth sharing (insert eye roll).
On October 6th Heritage will hold our Gentleman Collector sale. This is the second GC sale that I’ve been a part of and let me be the first to say, it’s not the easiest catalogue to write. As the name states, this sale is geared toward the gentleman collector. I happen to be a girl. While I appreciate the craftsmanship that a fine walking cane speaks to, you won’t find me bidding on one.
To my surprise and delight, a section in this GS sale is devoted to items from the estate of socialite and philanthropist, Brooke Astor. For those unfamiliar with the Astor family (and have obviously not seen the movie “Titanic”) John Jacob Astor was the first millionaire in America and his great-grandson, John Jacob Astor IV has gone down in history as the “richest person to die on the Titanic.” He did other things in his lifetime, which I’m certain were far more significant. As someone who is not an erudite Astor historian, but has seen “Titanic,” don’t ask me what those things are. Vincent Astor was J.J. Astor’s son and he married Brooke Astor. Now that the family tree is straight, on to the goods.
The Gorham Silver Galapagos Penguin, Lot 62808, given to Vincent Astor from his yachting companions on one of his many voyages, is certainly one of the highlights of the collection. President Franklin Roosevelt, a frequent guest aboard Astor’s Nourmahal yacht, is even photographed sitting with the silver penguin. Yes, that’s cool.
Lot 62821 includes a handwritten, quite personal letter from Prince Charles to Mrs. Astor, in addition to two other letters. Even cooler.
Lot 62823 is a letter from Princess Diana thanking Brooke Astor for the gift of a “perfectly beautiful brooch.” That’s the coolest and I know this because it got the most “likes” on my Facebook page (for the auction, not on my whole page. That honor goes to a picture of myself and Willie Nelson).
For my money though, nothing is cooler and more precious than Lot 62818, which is a collection of love letters from Vincent Astor to his Brooke.
As an undercover hopeless romantic, these letters drew me in. I spent a good four hours gushing over them. Written in the summer of 1953 while on a trip abroad, Vincent corresponds about everything and nothing in the letters to his Brooke. One of the letters is intended to convince Brooke to marry him. It apparently worked because within two months, they were married.
Their marriage certificate is also part of this lot. As someone dating in the age of text messages and emails, this archive of love is a reminder of what courtship is supposed to look like. Vincent sat down and put pen to paper for his beloved.
At an estimate of $400-600, these letters are a steal. They have unquestionably stolen my heart, which will be heavy when they hit the block. You might even catch me with a tear in my eye.
If you tell anyone though, I will most certainly deny it.