Countess Mona Bismarck (1899-1983)
Geneva, 13 May 1986, lot 36, The Magnificent Jewels of the late Countess Mona Bismarck
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Post Lot Text
Countess Mona Bismarck
The legendary Mona Bismarck (née Strader), 1897-1983, lived a glamorous and luxurious life, defying convention and later sharing her good fortune to support the arts, fashion and culture. Following her marriage in 1926 to Harrison Williams, reputed to be among the wealthiest men in America, Mona swiftly became known as one of the most glamorous and beautiful women in New York, and was named “the best-dressed woman in the world” by contemporaneous arbiters of fashion.
Williams’s vast wealth and elevated social position afforded Mona a lavish lifestyle, and the couple divided their time between residences in New York, Palm Beach, Paris and Capri. Several years after the death of Harrison Williams in 1953, Mona married her longtime friend, Count Edward von Bismarck, grandson of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Mona’s quintessential style was celebrated in song by Cole Porter, while her distinctive beauty and elegance captivated artists and photographers, including Salvador Dalí, Leonor Fini, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen and H. P. Horst. Her social circle included American Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower, socialites the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Princess Grace of Monaco, as well as an impressive number of writers and actors, including Truman Capote, Erich Maria Remarque, Tennessee Williams, Greta Garbo and Paul Newman. She was the muse for couturiers Cristòbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy, with whom she maintained intimate and life-long friendships.
Extract from the Mona Bismarck American Center website
A legendary jewellery collection
The auction of Mona von Bismarck’s jewels took place in Geneva on 13th of May 1986. It was a historic day for jewellery collectors around the world, for her collection contained jewels unique not only by their inherent value but also by their history. The Countess’s name certainly added to the value, and the glamorous life she lived was represented in the jewels she chose to wear, on a daily basis.
Being a close friend of Cecil Beaton, photographs survive of her evolving collection. She constantly re-designed her jewels, following the fashion of her days. Her keen eye for jewellery expanded further than fashion, with jewels in her collection dating back to the 19th century.
As many other jewellery lovers, Mona entertained a close relationship with Cartier. They created, designed and re-designed many pieces of her collection. Lot 220 is a splendid diamond bracelet, mounted by Cartier and based on 19th century designs. It personifies Mona von Bismarck’s trendsetting taste and elegance.
Papi S. & Rhodes A., 20th century jewelry & the icons of style, New York, Thames and Hudson, 2013, p. 133
Papi S. & Rhodes A., Famous Jewelry Collectors, London, Thames and Hudson, 1999, pp. 130-14