Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Fine Art and European Furniture from the Estate of José Iturbi On Offer at Bonhams & Butterfields in Los Angeles on June 2nd

Summer auction highlights the lifestyles of ‘old-Hollywood’ royals: Countess Dorothy di Frasso, designer Elsie de Wolfe and the renowned musician, movie star and philanthropist José Iturbi.

iturbi.jpgBonhams & Butterfields is pleased to offer property from the Estate of José Iturbi and Marion Seabury, sold to benefit the José Iturbi Foundation, on June 2, 2008 in Los Angeles. The magnificent Beverly Hills estate brings together three fascinating histories — each providing a glimpse into the “Golden Era” of Hollywood and the grandeur of its culture, including the infamous Countess Dorothy di Frasso, the famed decorator and tastemaker to society Elsie de Wolfe, and the world famous pianist, conductor, composer and actor José Iturbi.

More than 60 years ago, José Iturbi first entered the Beverly Hills, CA mansion of the Countess Dorothy di Frasso. He was reportedly awestruck by the scene which epitomized Hollywood chic of the 1940s. Inside he was impressed by a pair of hand-painted Chinoiserie cabinets and Georgian-style carved chairs, overstuffed couches, mirrored coffee tables and a unique mirrored backgammon table adroitly selected for this home by Elsie de Wolfe, the legendary designer who was pursued ruthlessly by high society and Hollywood royalty to decorate their castles.

Countess di Frasso entertained lavishly in her mansion. Her customary guest lists included a “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry: Orson Wells, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Barbara Hutton, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly, Jack Benny, Charlie Chaplin, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball and José Iturbi. Iturbi would often visit and on select occasions perform for their mutual Hollywood friends.

Beguiled over the course of his many visits, Iturbi dreamt of owning the mansion someday. His collector’s instincts made its contents desirable as well — the custom Art Deco vanilla leather box sofa where Cary Grant once sat, the Steinway baby grand piano where Iturbi played Chopin and the ‘boogie-woogie,’ the green painted enamel top Rococo Revival dining table where Charlie Chaplin once shared plans for his next film with the Countess, Iturbi and their mutual friends.

In 1947, Iturbi purchased the home complete with the Countess’ furnishings, the fine art and even the silver place settings. Thus began a lifetime of collecting, enhanced by preservation of and admiration for his new home and its environment. Iturbi’s mansion was his haven from a hectic career which at its peak included more than 250 concerts each year – performances scheduled to enable his appearances in seven feature films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, including: Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Holiday in Mexico (1946), Anchors Aweigh (1945) and That Midnight Kiss (1949).

Until his death in 1980, José Iturbi lived with Marion Seabury in the Countess’ former home, preserved as a time capsule of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Following his passing, Seabury worked tirelessly to establish The José Iturbi Foundation. This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to continuing Iturbi’s legacy and bringing the public’s attention to today’s finest emerging classical pianists and vocalists.

The property on offer from the Estate of José Iturbi and Marion Seabury is international in scope. Highlights include a cubist masterwork by Georges Braque titled Nature Morte, 1929, estimated to sell for $200,000 to $300,000. Additional works of fine art from the Estate include two desirable bronze sculptures by Remington, each expected to garner bids as high as $300,000, paintings by artists Tamayo and Fortuny, with works on paper by Rodin.

Furniture from the Beverly Hills mansion includes a Portuguese ivory mirror (est. $6/8,000) and a Verdue garden tapestry (est. $8/12,000) along with other 18th and 19th century pieces of Italian and Spanish furnishings. Among the highlights are the superb commissions of Elsie de Wolfe, including a mirrored bedroom set designed for the Countess, a circa 1936 Art Deco vanilla leather box sofa (est. $5/8,000), and a mirrored backgammon table (est. $3/4,000). Several upright and grand pianos (estimates range from $300/7,000) are to be offered, as well as an antique music stand and Iturbi’s Edwardian silver-mounted bone conductor’s baton (est. $150/250).

The proceeds from the June 2nd auction will benefit the José Iturbi Foundation. The organization pays tribute to Iturbi’s dream and lifelong ambition to make classical music accessible to all as part of our daily framework. Each year, the Foundation sponsors an international music competition hosting 48 of the world’s most gifted young classical pianists and singers, and offering the largest cash prizes of any competition to assist them in their career ambitions.

The Estate of José Iturbi and Marion Seabury will be offered at auction on June 2, 2008. Public previews open — Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31 (10am-5pm, each day), continuing on Sunday, June 1 (from Noon-5pm). The illustrated auction catalog will be available online at in the weeks preceding the sale and previews.