My Fair Ladies: The Collections Of Vivien Leigh And Audrey Hepburn On Auction

Art

My Fair Ladies: The Collections Of Vivien Leigh And Audrey Hepburn On Auction

Two iconic silver screen legends, Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn, will shine once again in September when personal items from their private collections make a special appearance on Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction blocks.

Published on 22 August 2017

This September, two separate auctions will shine a spotlight on two of the most beloved actresses to emerge from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Lauded for their beauty as well as for their acting credentials, both Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn were Academy Award winners who blazed their way onto the silver screen in iconic roles.

Leigh personified director George Cukor’s description of a Southern belle “possessed of the devil and charged with electricity” as Scarlett O’Hara in the epic historical romance Gone with the Wind, while Hepburn’s breathtaking appearances in Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and My Fair Lady were so memorable that she remains a frequently referenced muse in popular culture today. For those who specialise in collecting celebrity memorabilia or are simply adoring fans of Leigh or Hepburn (or both!), September is a prime opportunity to acquire choice pieces from the personal collections of these globally renowned, much-celebrated stars.

Following an exhibition from 22 to 25 September, Sotheby’s London will bring to auction The Vivien Leigh Collection on the morning of 26 September, while Christie’s London will present the sale of the personal collection of Audrey Hepburn on 27 September. Very eager bidders will be pleased to learn that an online sale of the Audrey Hepburn collection will also run from 19 September to 3 October, while items from this extraordinary archive will be on view to the public in an exhibition at Christie’s King Street, from 23 September onwards.

The Vivien Leigh Collection at Sotheby’s

“This is the first auction dedicated solely to Leigh,” explains Frances Christie, head of Modern & Post-War British Art at Sotheby’s. “What makes the sale particularly special is that all the property comes to auction directly from Leigh’s family. There are items in the sale directly linked to the legendary roles she played in Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire – performances captured on celluloid that have immortalised her.

“Leigh’s fans will no doubt find themselves drawn to this iconic material, but equally to the objects she surrounded herself with at home. I’m sure a number of them would love to own a piece of Leigh, to feel a personal connection with her though something she cherished,” Christie adds. This extensive collection comprises paintings, jewellery, couture, books from Leigh’s private library, Hollywood memorabilia, furniture, objets d’art and other items from her pre-war years in London, to Hollywood and beyond, up to her death in 1967.

While lots such as Leigh’s personal copy of Gone with the Wind, given to her by the author Margaret Mitchell – estimated to be worth between £5,000–7,000 (US$6,448-9,027) – may attract the most attention, items drawn from the city and country homes she shared with her husband, the equally celebrated thespian Laurence Olivier, may provide a new perspective on Leigh. “For many people, she represents the very height of the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood: a silver screen goddess who embodies all the glitz and glamour you would hope for from an actress of this bygone era,” remarks Christie.

“For many people, she represents the very height of the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood:
a silver screen goddess who embodies all the glitz and glamour you
would hope for from an actress of this bygone era.”

“To have Scarlett O’Hara’s own copy of the book which inspired Gone with the Wind, with a unique poem from the author, is hugely special. When you pick up this book, you really feel like you’re holding a piece of history. However, one of the most exciting things about this sale is that we all now have the opportunity to discover the real Vivien Leigh, the person behind her public persona. Some of the pieces are wonderfully evocative and personal – for instance, the gold ‘Eternally’ ring, valued between £400-600 (US$516-774), not only shines a light on the private relationship between Leigh and Olivier, but also gives a strong sense of the happy times they had together away from the public eye.

“These kind of objects are immensely appealing to collectors. The painting of roses by Winston Churchill which he gifted to her is hugely exciting. It opens a window on another side of her life, which so few people knew about – her love of art. The paintings in her collection are desirable in themselves, but having them sprinkled with Vivien Leigh ‘gold dust’ adds to their lustre.” With around 45 artworks included in the sale, Leigh’s appreciation of art and patronage of modern British artists will add a new dimension to her story, alongside her passion for books and fondness for entertaining and interior design.

“When people think of Leigh, they often think of her life as a Hollywood star. In fact, what has become increasingly obvious to us is that she was a fiercely intelligent woman with a razor-sharp mind, who could hold her own with some of the greatest intellects of the period,” Christie says of the actress, who not only bought new art from the countries she visited while travelling the world, but also took select paintings with her to decorate her hotel and dressing rooms across the globe.

“This is demonstrated not only through her art collection, but through her library which includes inscribed editions from almost all of the great writers you can imagine from that era. I think we’ll see a very broad range of collectors descend on Sotheby’s – some with a literary interest, others with an eye for art, others still with an acute sense of what makes a particular object appeal to them on an aesthetic level. Whichever the case, there’s something for everyone.”

Audrey Hepburn at Christie’s

Christie’s September auction marks the first time that personal items collected, used, and treasured by one of the most famous and well-loved women of the twentieth century have been offered for sale, having previously remained in the ownership of Audrey Hepburn’s family. An unprecedented opportunity for collectors and devoted fans, estimates for lots offered at the auction start at just £100 (US$129) and range up to £80,000 (US$103,164).

“Hepburn’s name is one that instantly resonates,” says Adrian Hume-Sayer, director of Private Collections at Christie’s, “Her appeal and relevance remain as strong today as they ever were. From experience, bidders will be driven by their great love of and admiration for Hepburn, seizing the unique opportunities presented and making their acquisitions ones of personal resonance,” Hume-Sayer remarks. Fashion enthusiasts may choose to focus on key pieces that exemplify Hepburn’s signature look, such as a Burberry trench coat, estimated at between £6,000-8,000 (US$7,737-10,316), or a selection of her ballet pumps ­– estimates start from £1,500 (US$1,934).

For those seeking a more intimate snapshot of the film legend and humanitarian’s life and career, Hepburn’s own collection of memorabilia and letters may appeal strongly to bidders, as well as portraits from her personal archive of original professional portraits by major photographers. As Hume-Sayer points out, the big-ticket items of the auction will undoubtedly be the actress’ personal annotated working scripts, peppered with notes and revisions for her portrayal of some of Hollywood’s most memorable characters.

“Hepburn’s appeal is one that transcends borders, gender, and the generations.
Her personal collection is already drawing massive international interest”

“Hepburn’s working script for the 1961 Paramount production Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of the top lots of the sale in London, with an estimate of £60,000-80,000 (US$77,373-103,164). It has been marked up and annotated by Hepburn in the turquoise ink she favoured, and it offers an incredible insight into her working process: when you watch scenes back, you can see how the mark-up translates on the screen,” Hume-Sayer explains. Hepburn’s working script for the 1963 mystery-thriller film Charade is also on offer at a slightly more modest estimate of £15,000-25,000 (US$19,343-32,239).

Acknowledging Hepburn’s immense popularity, where she has remained a symbol of grace, elegance and humanity 24 years after her death, Hume-Sayer suggests that the majority of bidders will approach the collection from a more personal perspective, rather than viewing lots based on their monetary value. “Hepburn’s appeal is one that transcends borders, gender, and the generations. Her personal collection is already drawing massive international interest,” Hume-Sayer says.

“The value added by provenance is difficult to quantify. In the case of Hepburn, alongside the intrinsic value of the object, previous auction records are taken into account, such as the black satin evening gown designed by Hubert de Givenchy for Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” Hepburn’s iconic black dress was auctioned by Christie’s in 2006 for £467,200 (US$602,482) – well over its original estimate of £50,000-70,000 (US$64,478-90,269). “Where the historic interest of the item in question is so compelling, it would be impossible to dismiss it. The market will decide the final value,” Hume-Sayer remarks, “I think people will see these objects as a personal investment rather than a purely financial one.”

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