New York — Joan Rivers was many things: brash and brassy comedian, queen of QVC, petite mistress of great big gowns.
Lesser known, perhaps, was her penchant for collecting — from Faberge objets d’art to fine French furniture. Her East 62nd Street penthouse, a former ballroom, was filled with it and nearly two years after her death at 81, her daughter, Melissa Rivers, felt it time to clean house.
With the help of Christie’s New York, she made her way through rooms and rooms of memories, deciding what she couldn’t emotionally part with, what she would hold onto for archival purposes and what she would donate to charity.
What was left is now the Private Collection of Joan Rivers, with more than 200 lots to be auctioned in a live sale at Christie’s on June 22 and about 80 more offered online at Christies.com through June 23.
Melissa Rivers was not ready to use the word “cathartic.” After all, she said, “It hasn’t even been two years.” Instead, she’s in survivor mode, “taking care of business” in a way she knows her mother would appreciate.
“She never believed that everything should be kept in storage or a bank vault. She always said, ‘Use your things, enjoy the things you have.’ ”
The auction house opened its doors to the media Friday for a preview. There, a couple of Joan’s elegant sitting rooms were set up, her inlaid Yearwood desk and chair near a favorite painting by Edouard Vuillard, titled “Dans l’atelier.” It dates to about 1915 and is valued at $120,000 to $180,000.
Faberge was a favored brand for the former Beatrice Grushman Molinsky, the daughter of Russian immigrants, furriers who served the court back in the old country. Staying tony in the United States was sometimes a struggle that Joan never forgot. It fueled her furious work ethic. But she believed in using the fine things she and her late husband, Edgar, amassed.
Her approach was far from hands off when it came to sharing her world. Furniture and housewares, whether they were fancy or a tag sale find, were mixed and matched and enjoyed.
Hence antique Faberge picture frames held family photos, including one of Melissa in her University of Pennsylvania hoodie. Among the rarest and most valuable Faberge items up for auction is a small, gold-mounted, bowl-like study in green nephrite of a Lily of the Valley leaf with pearl and diamond details.
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