Lee Radziwill Auction Includes Personal Gifts Shared With Sister Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Lee Radziwell auction_Split - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Christie's

Gifts exchanged between the sisters, including a moonstone charm bracelet — considered a symbol of their sisterhood — and an illustrated travel book they penned are among the items that will go under the hammer at the Christie’s auction on Oct. 17.

When international socialite and influencer Lee Radziwill died in February, she left behind a trove of trinkets that spoke of a life lived somewhat in the shadows of her older sister — one of the world’s most famous women, Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The items that filled Radziwill's Upper East Side apartment will go on sale Oct. 17 at Christie's in New York, including a few gifts that the sisters exchanged. In advance of the Collection of Lee Bouvier Radziwill sale, the lot will be on public view from Friday to Tuesday at the auctioneer’s Rockefeller Center location, with starting bids ranging from $200 to $60,000.

The Bouvier sisters — Jacqueline and Caroline Lee — were considered among the most famous sisters in the world, before Jackie made her name as the First Lady of Style, when she married John F. Kennedy. Radziwill, for the most part, stayed behind the scenes, pointing her sister in the direction of what to wear on official outings and to state dinners, even as her own style and taste made her a fashion icon.

While the relationship between the sisters was thought to have become strained after Kennedy Onassis married a second time, the two had been very close throughout their lives, with Kennedy Onassis naming her daughter Caroline after her younger sister. "Lee Radziwill and Jackie Kennedy had such a special and strong sisterhood, which is reflected in many lots from the collection," Liz Seigel, specialist, Private and Iconic Collections at Christie’s, told The Hollywood Reporter.

A memorable keepsake among the collection is symbolic of their relationship. "The moonstone and gold charm bracelet is one of the most representative lots of this special sisterhood; it was a 20th birthday gift from Lee to her sister Jackie, and is inscribed 'J.L.B FROM C.L.B., JULY 28, 1949' with an inscription in French 'whistle if you want me,' alongside a little gold whistle," says Seigel. "This would have been around the time that Jackie Kennedy would have been setting off on her year in Paris, and likely served as a token of remembrance for the sisters in the time they would be apart."

The bracelet, which Kennedy Onassis ended up giving back to Radziwill, was designed with three moonstone cabochons in between yellow gold openwork links. It would have been a going-away present for Kennedy Onassis, too, who studied abroad in France in 1949 and 1950 at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris, and the item is estimated to fetch between $1,000-$1,500.

"There are also two copies of One Special Summer being offered in the sale, including a deluxe first edition of the book signed by both sisters. This charmingly illustrated book penned by Jackie and Lee Bouvier tells the story of the travels the two took across Europe in 1951, after Jackie Kennedy finished her year studying at the Sorbonne," says Seigel.

It reproduces the notes and drawings they made on their trip to London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice and Madrid (estimated to fetch $2,000 to $3,000), published in 1974. The book club edition of the illustrated travel journal (estimated to fetch $4,000 to $6,000) is inscribed by both sisters with the words "with all best wishes."

"In 1962, the sisters went on state visits together to India and Pakistan, which were commemorated with unique, beautifully bound albums of photographs of their trip, which are being offered in the sale," says Seigel. The two photo albums are expected to fetch $40,000 to $60,000 and $20,000 to $30,000, respectively. A blue leatherette features a number of images of the sisters’ semi-official trip to India in March 1962, while a green one contains rare photos from the West Pakistan leg of their tour of the subcontinent, the first page of which features a large profile bust of Kennedy Onassis in charcoal.

"There is also a beautiful, leather-bound set of Balzac’s works that held pride of place in Ms. Radziwill’s library, which were a gift from Jackie Kennedy," says Seigel, referring to the French playwright Honoré de Balzac’s book La Comedie Humaine. According to Christie’s, Radziwill’s interior designer Renzo Mongiardino was fond of quoting Balzac, particular his maxim that "the wise man goes back to the origins of ancient times," and the author’s influence can be seen in the interiors Mongiardino designed for the Radziwills.

"In addition to the albums, charm bracelet and other jewelry in the sale, we expect lots of interest in some of the more personal items in the sale, such as Ms. Radziwill’s iconic sunglasses, as well as items directly linked to Renzo Mongiardino, with whom she closely worked," says Seigel. "There are a few key pieces that remain from the interior schemes that Mongiardino completed for Ms. Radziwill, such as beautiful 19th century Indian reverse-painted glass pictures in custom frames, and a pair of quite stylish jappaned étagères."

Seigel says the collection, which has remained at Radziwill’s New York apartment since her death in February, also shows the legacy she left behind — apart from her relationship with her sister. "Ms. Radziwill was an aesthete known for her sartorial acumen," says Seigel. The items altogether illustrate the rich and adventurous life she lived, both as sister to Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and as an influential figure in her own right.