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The auction of Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon’s estate, which offered collectibles from a $39.9 million Mark Rothko painting to a rabbit-shaped doorstop for more than $5,000, fetched $218.1 million at Sotheby’s (BID) in New York.

The 1,521 objects including fine art, furnishings and jewelry owned by Mellon, who died in March at the age of 103, were offered in three sales over five days that ended yesterday. Ninety-eight percent of the lots sold.

Collectors sought a piece of the history of the American socialite, who was married to the late banking heir Paul Mellon. Sotheby’s said more than 5,000 visitors came to see the collection in one week at its New York headquarters.

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A 9.75-carat fancy vivid blue diamond from the collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon sold for more than $32.6 million, shattering its high estimate of $15 million at Sotheby’s New York Thursday. The price set a world auction record for any blue diamond; and at more than $3.3 million per carat, it set a world auction record for price-per-carat for any diamond.

The pear-shaped diamond was sought after by seven bidders who competed for 20 minutes for the gem, Sotheby’s said. It ultimately sold to a Hong Kong private collector who named it “The Zoe Diamond.”

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On Monday, November 10, Sotheby’s offered works from the collection of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon -- a gardening and design icon, an ardent philanthropist, and the wife of Paul Mellon, the heir to the Mellon banking fortune. The auction, which took place in New York, fetched a total of $158.7 million, far exceeding the sale’s presale estimate of $82.9 million to $120.1 million. All of the forty-three lots offered sold -- a testament to Mellon’s keen eye and impeccable taste. 

“Property from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon: Masterworks” presented a curated selection of fine art, ranging from seventeenth-century still lifes to masterpieces of the twentieth century.

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Few people have ever visited Oak Spring Farms, the grand home here of Rachel Lambert Mellon, better known as Bunny. If they had, they would have seen a Pissarro, unframed like a flea market find, above the living room fireplace. Upstairs, a still life by van Gogh hung above her bathtub. Antique porcelains — cabbages, asparagus, artichokes — were artfully arranged on practically every surface.

Mrs. Mellon was the matriarch of an American dynasty whose fortune and art holdings rivaled that of the Fricks, Carnegies and Morgans. But perhaps most notably, she was a passionate collector of a bygone era. She didn’t pay attention to what was in fashion; she didn’t think about future financial returns.

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Katya Kazakina puts a lot of guess work together to postulate what might have happened in the private sale of three of Bunny Mellon’s paintings, two of the nine Rothkos the Mellons once owned and a Richard Diebenkorn. The Rothkos were the monumental 10 x 15 foot No. 20 (Yellow Expanse) which the late David Anfam described as the “the jewel in the crown.” The 1953 painting was casually valued at $125m as early as 2010. The conjecture that the group were sold for $300m—and that’s just conjecture as you will see below—would suggest that No. 20 was sold for $200m or more:

Alexander Forger, the executor of Mellon’s estate, confirmed in a telephone interview that three paintings had been sold. He declined to identify the paintings, the price or buyer’s identity, citing confidentiality agreements.

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