Today is the final installment of our three-week series exploring past Sotheby’s auction catalogues, and I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth Donaldson, a private sale associate at Sotheby’s, back to The Glam Pad! To get caught up on Elizabeth’s first two posts, please see Wallis in Wonderland – The Private Rooms and Enchanting Taste of The Duchess of Windsor, and The Residences and Vacation Homes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Today Elizabeth is showcasing Bunny Mellon’s exquisite style, and we will tour her cherished Oak Spring Farm, as featured in Sotheby’s November 2014 sale, Property from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
As Elaine Whitmire, former Head of Sotheby’s Single Owner Sales department commented, “Mrs Mellon was a woman not only of exceptional taste and style – she had a vision, and that is an even greater rarity.” Throughout her life, Rachel Lambert Mellon was a prominent patron of each of her passions: landscape, design, art, and horticulture, and infused each into her life with simplicity, elegance, and personality. In 2014, Sotheby’s hosted a three day auction of Mrs Mellon’s interiors collection, which included fine art, furniture, porcelain, silver, glassware, décor and memorabilia from the family’s residences in the United States and abroad. The results of the record breaking sale more than doubled expectations, with proceeds benefitting the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, founded by Mrs Mellon in memory of her father.
Mrs Mellon’s love of gardening enchants each view of her interiors and each of her possessions – from topiary themed tableware to her arbre-atic living room moldings, the indoor spaces she designed read as a garden of curiosities in close conversation with her interests. Her love of gardening began from a young age when she discovered the gardens of England, France and Italy. It is said that at the age of five she began constructing miniature gardens in her window boxes with small topiaries and wild flowers, and became interested in the academia behind gardening at the age of twelve. Her husband, Paul Mellon (son of Andrew W. Mellon) said of her: “Everything she does in life – her reading, her architecture, her love of pictures – is related in one way or another to this one main interest.” As time passed, Mrs Mellon’s expertise became highly sought after among her close friends. In addition to the White House Rose Garden, Mrs Mellon worked with Mrs Kennedy to design a garden for the Kennedy home on Martha’s Vineyard and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and with Hubert de Givenchy on his Manoir du Jonchet in France.
Mrs Mellon designed gardens and garden-influenced interiors in each of her personal family homes in New York, Paris, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Antiqua and Virginia. She worked throughout her life with renowned interior decorators including Syrie Maugham, Paul Leonard, Colefax & Fowler and Billy Baldwin, and artists such as Diego Giacometti in each of her residences. Upperville, Virginia served as the Mellons’ primary household. Comprised of three principal buildings, the main residence on the property, Oak Spring, a Neo-Georgian style brick house, was designed by architect William Adams Delano in 1941. In the late 1940s, Mr and Mrs Mellon commissioned H. Page Cross to design the “more intimate environment” of Little Oak Spring. Mrs Mellon designed the gardens around the property herself and in 1980 worked alongside Edward Larrabee Barnes to build Oak Spring Garden Library overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, which she described as “a working library where mystery, fascination, and romance contribute to centuries of the art of gardening as a source of discovery.” Over the course of the Mellons’ lives, Oak Spring estate was host to many distinguished guests including Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales.
Today we will tour the Mellons’ home in Upperville, Virginia:
Oak Spring Farm, Upperville, Virginia
Garden Room, Oak Spring Farm, Upperville, Virginia
The Rose Garden, White House, Washington DC
This concludes our special series of past Sotheby’s auction catalogues, although I hope to share more in the future. A huge thank you to Elizabeth Donaldson for providing such fascinating content! You can read more about Elizabeth here, and please follow @elizabethdonaldson on Instagram.
For more on Bunny Mellon’s storied life, I recommend Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend and The Gardens of Bunny Mellon. Auction catalogues for this sale are difficult to find, but here is a set currently being offered via eBay. You can read an interesting article about Oak Springs’ new owners here.