This is part two of my coverage of the sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels and couture at Christie’s auction house in New York.
This is the part where I tell you why I placed a bid on lot 431.
As you know, there was a lot of interest in Liz’s stuff.
People lined up around the block to check out the treasures on display at Christie’s.
And I was one of them, clutching my $30 entrance ticket and my $30 catalog.
And of all the bangles, baubles, and beads on sale, I zeroed in on lot 431:
It’s a not very spiffy-looking caftan, described in the catalog as:
A PURPLE SILK AND GILT EMBROIDERED CAFTAN WITH A NECKLACE
unlabeled, 1990′s, $300-500 (estimate)
The reason why my heart pounded when I saw this caftan was because I recognized it. I knew this caftan. And it’s not a 1990′s frock.
It’s from 1972. February, 1972. February 25, 1972 to be exact.
How do I know this?
Because I’ve been looking at it for about 20 years, ever since I bought this in 1992:
Yes. This $300-500 caftan is the one Liz wore on the cover of LIFE magazine for a story about her 40th birthday for the Feb 25, 1972 issue.
I saw the mis-attribution in the Christie’s catalog and I hoped nobody else in the world knew what I knew, and I saw my opportunity to bag me an Elizabeth Taylor party dress.
I phoned up Christie’s and I put in a bid for $2,500. (Not all at once. I started out with $1,100, and then thought how rotten I would feel if I lost out on it, and I assessed my future despair and I phoned Christie’s back and put in a bid for $2500. I did not tell Top Cat.)
Lucky for me, this lot was being sold in Liz’s “odds and ends” sale, called on the local news “Liz’s Leftovers”. This boded well for me, in that it was being stuffed in with a bunch of cheaper goods, after the magnificent jewelry and high fashion sales that had already been held starting on on Monday.
“My” auction started at 10 AM this past Thursday, Dec. 15. Lot 431 came up shortly after 11AM. I’d be checking prices, and her Pucci frocks were soaring in price; estimates at $600-800 for 1970′s-era psychedelic stuff were bid up to $10,000.
Still, I had hope. Lot 431 didn’t have the pizzazz of Pucci and it wasn’t vintage.
Then Lot 431 came up. I watched the auctioneer bid from her book–that is, for me and my “left bid”–for about five seconds. My heart pounded when bidding seemed to slow around $3,000 and I was kicking myself: I shudda raised it another thou!!
Then the bids kept climbing.
The auctioneer brought her hammer down at $9,500. With buyer’s premium, that’s a little over $11,000.
I sent an email to Christie’s offering to chat with the buyer, to give him/her provenance on Lot 431.
By the way, Liz was in a very caftan-y mood when she posed for LIFE magazine in 1972, She and Richard Burton were in Budapest while Burton was filming the movie Bluebeard. She was also photographed wearing Lot 333:
AN EVENING TROUSER SUIT OF BOTTLE GREEN VELVET WITH TWO WHITE METAL BELTS
the suit Soledano and 1960s, the belts possible straights Chinese and 19th century, $2,00-3,000 (estimate)
This outfit was sold in the “Couture” sale on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 14. It went for $8,125.
This is how Liz wore it in Budapest:
And there was another caftan, Lot 332:
AN OTTOMAN WEDDING GOWN OF PURPLE VELVET AND A CLUTCH BAG
the gown, Turkey, late 19th century, $3,000-4,000 (estimate)
These gowns became popular in Turkey in the 1870s when European fashions were adopted by the Turkish court of Ataturk with a view to modernizing the Ottoman Empire.
That text, see above, dear readers, is what we professional writers call “padding”. You non-professionals call it “bullshit”.
This outfit was also sold in the “Couture” sale on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 14. It went for $10,000.
And oh, my, dear readers, this is the outfit to which Liz added a very lovely accessory:
Yes, that’s the Peregrina pearl she’s wearing on her forehead, in its “original” late 19th century chain, before she put it on that Cartier monstrosity. This is how the pearl looked when Richard Burton bought it for $37,000.
On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the Peregrina sold for a little over $11 million.
You know, for about 48 hours I actually thought I had a shot at winning Liz’s LIFE magazine caftan. Life felt really good. Special. Jazzy.
Now Kim Kardashian has $65,000 worth of Liz Taylor bracelets and I have zip.
It’s a scientific fact that our human brains are wired to feel loss very acutely. We are psychologically programed so that loss–however minor–feels much, much worse than [whatever the opposite of "loss" is]. That is why most people are very risk-averse: the happiness of getting something is far outweighed by the pain of losing some other thing.
I deeply appreciated your stories of cringe-worthy typos in your pasts. They really made me feel MUCH better about my slip-up! Thank you!
Now tell me about something that you lost out on, and we will all commiserate. Or, just tell me what the opposite of “loss” is, because it’s not really “found”, right?