Since the death of doyenne Brooke Astor, the longtime queen of New York Society, those who care about such things have wondered and discussed who might be her successor on the throne---or if  New York society could even be ruled again by just one person.  About all this I know little, sitting up here in Down East Maine, where paying the oil bills or the declining price of lobster worry one far more than who will preside over the leaderless elite of Manhattan.  

This wonderful photograph pictures neither Mrs. Astor nor her throne, but is a scene captured  at another end-of-era auction, the effects of Miss Julia Berwind at 'The Elms' in Newport Rhode Island.  The photograph is by Nancy Sirkis from her marvelous book 'Newport, Pleasures and Palaces' (Viking/Studio, 1963) 
An auction of Mrs. Astor's lesser effects was held three weeks ago at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York.  Her leftover possessions were typical  goods of a well placed lady of the second half of the 20th century---pretty and decorative, with a French accent. Several friends and acquaintances attended the auction, and depending on whom one asks, and what they hoped to buy, prices were either terribly high or terribly low.  My own observation is that the sale followed the current market---where style and eye appeal trump age or quality, or even provenance--- many of the pieces were chosen for her by Parish-Hadley.  I scratched my head at some of the prices---$5500 for a Metropolitan Museum reproduction of St. Gauden's iconic statue of Diana---available in the Met Gift shop for considerably less----down to a mere $15.00 for the Louis XV style Chaise Percée pictured below.

I was immediately reminded of another wonderful Sirkis photograph, of an elegant woman examining a chaise Percée in a bathroom at 'The Elms'.

And then, in a flash, it came to me.  Whoever paid that $15.00 for the chaise Percée now sits on Mrs. Astor's throne. All Hail.  Society need wonder no longer.



I rarely answer that question in the affirmative---there is just so danged much that I don't know.  For example, an ever informed friend of widespread interests  sent these photographs of a recently redecorated French commuter train, asking "Do you know this?", and indeed the answer was 'No---but Wow'

I've no doubt that all my design savvy readers and everyone else in the blogosphere already knew, but it had escaped me, and I'm enchanted at the juxtaposition.  How could anyone be bored or tired on this commute?  Take note, Amtrak, take note.

PS:  Speaking of those many things I don't know, it does little good even when I do know things.  For example, even though other friends had informed me ages ago that the recent anonymous 'Property of a Lady' sale at Stair Galleries in Hudson NY was actually the property of Brooke Astor, it never occurred to my summer-addled brain to mention it---until of course I read it in another blog, weeks later.  Oh well, you don't come to me for current events, I suspect.  Besides, I was far more interested in session 2 on Sautrday,  the contents of the late decorator Keith Irvine's house in Carmel New York.  Many of the items were more to my taste---wonderful neo-classical sculpture and bas relief galore.  The always delightful Mr. Irvine was a sometimes visitor to the Dilettante's shop, and in fact, when I last saw the dining room of that house published, it contained a set of grain painted chairs purchased from me.  For the catalog and sales results of the Astor/Irvine auctions, click HERE.

Meanwhile, back on the train: