As can be deduced from Mrs. Zilkha’south first name, the Metropolitan Opera board member, indefatigable fundraiser, and disarmingly frank spouse—“My housework consists of arranging the flowers and washing the jade twice a year,” the best-dressed mother of three one time cheerfully admitted—was an ardent Francophile. (She was even named a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur and a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.) The apartment that the Zilkhas had acquired in the late 1980s took up an entire floor of 845 Fifth Avenue and would be Pompadoured to a fare thee well. Information technology was a mature apotheosis of the classic French traditional style that they had embraced later their marriage in 1950, when he was 24 and she was 17.
“I oftentimes joke that during my lifetime I accept gone from the Persian carpet culture to the Louis [XV] culture,” Ezra once observed. In that, he and his wife, one of the urban center’s most conspicuously devoted couples, were following in the footsteps of an older generation of Franco-fixated Manhattan collectors, among them the Chrysler heiress Thelma Foy and her married man, Byron, and oil millionaires Jayne and Charles B. Wrightsman. Like the Wrightsmans, the walls of Zilkhas’ trompe-50’oeil trelliswork dining room (the virtually delightful space in the flat) hosted a flock of 18th-century Kändler birds perched on gilt brackets, a combination that Dennis Harrington of Sotheby’southward describes as an keepsake of fashionable Fifth Avenue taste. Ditto the Jacob fauteuils, Sené tabourets, Boulle tables en huche, and Boulard voyeuses.
Not everything is ancien-régime, though. The scattering of stunning Künstkammer objects—including cups made of carved rock crystal, silver gold, and incised nautilus shells—are surprising, oddities that in one case populated the cabinets of curiosity that were assembled past Mitteleuropean princelings and, later, adored past Rothschilds. The art is uneven, personally speaking, ranging from minor Marcel Vertès pastels to organic bronze 1960s sculptures by Alicia Penalba to a lovely Maurice Utrillo view of Montmartre to a cloying Kees Van Dongen oil-on-canvas of a porcelain doll to an antique statuary cast of Auguste Rodin’s
That being said, I’d exist more than happy with the three 1940s Fauvist all the same lifes by Louis Valtat (Lots 35, 36, and 37, estimated from $15,000 to $sixty,000) or the entrancing 18th-century Jean-Marc Nattier pastel portrait (Lot 194, $400,000–$500,000) of Louise Royer, the wife of regal music teacher Louis Royer.
“Nosotros are always collecting—we must be completely mad,” Cecile Zilkha told the
New York Times
in a 1969 profile that too revealed that her dinner parties always started with a fish grade, often striped bass stuffed with mushrooms and parsley that was served with a white-wine sauce containing scallops and shrimp. Centre Eastern specialities surely made it to the tabular array too, since Mrs. Zilkha’s mother, Daisy Iny, wrote
The Best of Baghdad Cooking
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Mad, possibly, but every bit collectors, the Zilkhas shared an appreciation for quality, resulting in their becoming links on an international daisy chain of trophy hunters. Manhattan hotel developer Peter Jay Sharp once owned Lot 179, an exquisite Louis XVI ebony center tabular array ($50,000–$fourscore,000) made by Étienne Levasseur and incorporating Japanese lacquer panels. Other treasures were formerly in the possession of Patiños, Rothschilds, Salomons, Schiffs, Faucigny-Lucinges, Habsburgs, and fifty-fifty the Wrightsmans, among them a Meissen parrot (Lot 206, $eight,000–$12,000) that was deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A pair of Empire gilt-bronze jardinières, topped with cherry porphyry slabs to serve as tables (Lot 7, $100,000–$200,000), belonged to Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of the African nation of Côte d’Ivoire.
So who helped train the Zilkhas’ heart? Though Cecile Zilkha is credited with decorating the Fifth Artery flat largely on her own and doing much of the collecting in tandem with her married man, they did commission Manhattan tastemakers Robert Denning and Vincent Fourcade, exemplars of robber-baron chic, to produce an Empire-inflected green-velvet library too every bit the southward living room. Their apartment in Paris, though, was given over to decorator Gérard Gallet, best known for deluxe hotels and the modernistic furniture he created for Mobilier International. His passion for ormolu-enriched 18th- and 19th-century antiques, typically mixed with ultra-gimmicky designs, presumably influenced the Zilkhas, as well, given the gutsy evidence of swagger French furnishings that they acquired from influential Paris dealers such every bit Galerie Segoura, Didier Aaron, Galerie Aveline, and, the catalogue suggests, Jansen.
“Grandeur and style are hallmarks of the collection,” Sotheby’s Harrington continues, adding that Mrs. Zilkha was “very much drawn to objects of the highest quality, texture, and furniture with prominent, sculptural mounts just never vulgar or attacking the eye.”