‘There’s a real soul to this house, and you get that sense when you come through the door,’ says Gemma Sudlow, a specialist in the Iconic Collections department at Christie’s, as she looks around the Bel Air home of President and Mrs Nancy Reagan, the 40th President and First Lady of the United States. ‘To have the opportunity to see this home before it goes to a new owner is really quite extraordinary.’
This video tour of the couple’s beautifully appointed Ted Graber-designed home showcases some of its William Haines Hollywood Regency-style furniture and decorative works of art, being offered in the sale of The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. The sale will benefit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
This landmark collection is slated for sale at Christie’s New York on September 21 and 22, with live and online components, to coincide with Christie’s Americana Week auctions. Estimates on individual items will range from $1,000 up to $50,000, and the auctions are expected to realize in excess of $2 million total. The complete sale catalogue will be available in late summer 2016.
The public got a first look at highlights from the sale at Christie’s London in July with pieces of jewellery from Mrs. Reagan’s personal collection, led by a suite of Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and gold lion pendant-brooch necklace (estimate: $30,000-50,000) and accompanying diamond and gold lion ear clips (estimate: $15,000-20,000), worn on a state visit to the UK in 1988; an American flag motif diamond, sapphire, and ruby ring by Bulgari (estimate: $5,000-8,000), worn on 4 July, 1986; and a gold and diamond bangle bracelet by Bulgari (estimate: $5,000-7,000) worn by Mrs. Reagan at State dinners.
Other highlights include personal mementos with exceptional provenance, including a Tiffany American Marine Chronometer (estimate: $5,000-10,000) that was an inauguration gift from Mr. and Mrs. Francis [Frank] Sinatra. An engraved plaque within reads, ‘GOOD MORNING MR. PRESIDENT’, and the dedication, ‘January 1981 Love Francis and Barbara’. There is also a personal gift from Margaret and Denis Thatcher in the form of a pair of Elizabeth II silver beakers (estimate: $1,000-2,000), inscribed ‘With love, from Margaret and Denis Thatcher.’
Bill Haines designed houses for some of the greatest stars in Hollywood, explains Decorative Arts specialist Richard Nelson. His business continued under Ted Graber, who worked on the Reagans’ house with his then partner, Peter Schifando. ‘I was here when the house was being set up for them when they came out of the White House,’ recalls Schifando, a leading interior designer. ‘She liked me,’ he says of the First Lady, ‘and if she liked you, she liked you. We became very close and it was a very special thing.’
An inaguration gift from Mr. and Mrs. Francis [Frank] Sinatra to President Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981. An American marine chronometer, by Tiffany, 20th century. The matt silvered dial with Roman numerals, black finished hands, brown bowl, gimballed in brass-bound mahogany box, the hinged lid with a plaque engraved, ‘Good Morning Mr. President’, and dedication plaque to the front, ’January 1981 Love Francis and Barbara’, with external drop handles, green inventory label, and a key. Estimate: $5,000-10,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York
Also in the film, Christine Donahue of Christie’s Estate Appraisals and Valuations describes the Reagans’ ‘unique categorising system’ which saw green stickers placed underneath personal property that was formerly in the Family Residence at the White House, Washington D.C.. ‘These are two people who lived on the centre stage for an enormous number of years,’ she says, ‘and there are wonderful personal mementoes in the house that deal with their lives together.’