One of Joan Rivers’ fantasies was to be left alone unsupervised in a Christie’s warehouse with a big satchel, her daughter Melissa Rivers, told the auction house.
Melissa, the only child of the comedian, who died at the age of 81 in 2014 after complications during a throat procedure, was the decider-in-chief of which of her mother’s belongings will be sold at the world famous auctioneer. Christie’s is selling off 290 lots of Rivers’ handbags, clothing, French and English furniture, porcelain, glass and silver, jewelry, tchotchkes and Russian, European and Asian works of art.
The online auction of Rivers’ belongings will be held June 16 – 23 with a live auction June 22. The public can view her items at 20 Rockefeller Plaza starting June 17.
Rivers aggressively shilled her eponymous collection of costume jewelry on QVC (“I’m poor!” she once protested to this reporter while explaining her relentless work ethic). In private, she collected high end art, stunning antiques and exquisitely crafted antique Fabergé rings and pins, pillboxes and picture frames, some of which she purchased from Wartski on London’s Regent Street. Rivers was also a romantic, and a sucker for beautiful things with fantastic back stories. “Several of the Fabergé works have superlative provenance – such as the jeweled and enamel pill box (lot 38) that was purchased from Fabergé in 1898 from Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna,” said Gemma Sudlow, Christie’s vice-president and the specialist head of private and iconic collections. A gold-mounted cabochon star sapphire and diamond pendant brooch once owned by the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia (lot 43), is estimated by the auction house to fetch between $70,000 and $90,000.
Rivers was known for her often bawdy and coarse comedy, but her taste reflected “an unerring sense of attention to detail,” and a refined connoisseurship, said Sudlow. Rivers also loved her pets: Her dog Spike ate out of a silver Tiffany bowl engraved with his name (lot 7) and had the option of sleeping in a celadon silk passementerie upholstered dog house (lot 9). A portion of the auction’s proceeds – Christie’s declined to specify how much – will go to Guide Dogs for the Blind and God’s Love We Deliver.
A daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants who graduated from Barnard, Rivers’ many art books “reflected a thirst for knowledge and an inquisitive mind one associates with the best collectors,” and she cultivated friendships with art and antique dealers, Sudlow said. Wonderful table wares – many of which are up for sale – “speak to a generosity of spirit and a delight in entertaining,” Sudlow added. Melissa Rivers, in an interview with the auction house, acknowledged her bawdy and ribald mom “was not a minimalist by any stretch when it came to setting a table.”
Rivers’ East 62nd Street triplex penthouse –which sold this winter for $28 million – was sumptuously furnished in old world luxe and decorated with impressionist paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Raoul Dufy. (One painting from each artist will be on the block.) A magnificent ormolu mahogany, fruitwood and sycamore fin-de-siècle commode by the reknowned cabinet-maker François Linke, (lot 27) has been estimated to sell for between $100,000 and $150,000.
Rivers told her daughter her luxurious home “was how Marie Antoinette would have lived if she had money and taste.” While it was difficult to part with some of her mom’s bounty, “I know in her heart, and in my heart, that I’m doing the right thing because my mother maintained that things were meant to be used and loved” Melissa said. Rivers would be thrilled, said her daughter, to know that after her death, “her things will be loved by someone else.”