In the mid-90s, I heard a rather mean-spirited French antiquaire state that Hubert de Givenchy was a better interior decorator than haute couturier. The occasion for this backhanded praise was the nearly synchronous retirement of “Le Grand Hubert” from fashion and the exhibition by Paris’s Kugel gallery of Givenchy’s spectacular 17th-century Boulle “Apollo” cabinet alongside the designer’s equally sensational collection of Renaissance Limoges enamels. These rare objects were of such phenomenal quality that the enamels were quickly snapped up by Pierre Bergé for his Rue Bonaparte apartment and the cabinet promptly dispatched to a notorious American financier for his Park Avenue triplex.
Though these memorable French masterpieces will not be among the more than 1,200 lots offered by Christie’s at its epic auction “Hubert de Givenchy: Collectionneur,” to be held live in Paris from June 14 to June 17 and online through June 23, connoisseurs will find plenty of other exalted items to bid on.
In addition to such period standouts as a circa-1780 cylindrical mahogany desk, virtually identical to examples found in Buckingham Palace and Versailles, there are covetable modern pieces by Picasso, Joan Miró, Kurt Schwitters, and brothers Alberto and Diego Giacometti. Alberto’s Walking Woman, an attenuated, nearly life-size bronze—given to Givenchy by Bunny Mellon, no less—comes with an estimate so high it is available only upon request.
The supreme refinement of the treasures from Givenchy’s Rue de Grenelle town house in Paris and fairy-tale-like estate in the Loire Valley demonstrates to what degree this consummate aesthete imbued everything he touched with discipline, harmony, and elegance—including, of course, his enchanting dress designs for the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The imposing aristocrat’s nephew, the jeweler James de Givenchy, explains concisely: “My uncle lived his life in the pursuit of perfection and beauty.” —Amy Fine Collins
“Hubert de Givenchy: Collectionneur” is on at Christie’s Paris from June 14 to 17
Amy Fine Collins is an Editor at Large for AIR MAIL.She is the author of The International Best-Dressed List: The Official Story