Sotheby’s New York will offer 20 portraits of Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965), the legendary businesswoman and style icon whose name remains synonymous with beauty and elegance more than 100 years after the founding of her company, Helena Rubinstein, Incorporated, during May and October 2011.
Rubinstein was a pioneer and an innovator, creator of one of the first worldwide beauty brands and the world’s first female self-made millionaire. She was also a noted collector, filling homes in London, Paris and New York with extraordinary works of art. The auctions of works from her estate by Sotheby’s predecessor firm,Parke Bernet in 1965 are still spoken of with reverence, and even today, collectors continue to prize a Rubinstein provenance. As both a patron of the arts and a seasoned collector, Rubinstein sat for portraits by celebrated artists such as Salvador Dalí, Raoul Dufy, Pavel Tchelitchew and Graham Sutherland, all of whose works are featured in the upcoming sales. Five works will be included in the Impressionist and Modern Art sales on 3 & 4 May 2011 and the balance will be sold in October 2011. All 20 works will be shown together in Sotheby’s New York galleries from 9-12 April 2011 alongside the exhibition of Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale. The portraits are being sold by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation and are estimated to bring more than $2 million.
Born in Poland in 1870, Helena Rubinstein immigrated to Australia at age 18 and started her business with a face cream as her only product just two years later. It immediately became a bestseller and she eventually expanded to London, Paris and the United States. Rubinstein’s self-made company became a staple in the world of cosmetic beauty products and her exquisite taste in fashion and style elevated her to pinnacle of society in both Europe and America. The story of Rubinstein’s legendary life and career inspired countless films and books, as recently as February of this year.
The portraits Sotheby’s will offer highlight the close relationships Rubinstein sharedwith many luminaries of the art world during her lifetime. The undoubted highlight of the group is Salvador Dalí’s Princess Arthchild Gourielle-Helena Rubinstein from 1943 which will be offered in Sotheby’s Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art on 3 May 2011. Considered perhaps the most accomplished of the artist’s many society portraits, the painting presents Rubinstein, a long time friend and patron of Dalí’s, chained to the rocky cliffs by her own jewels (est. $1/1.5 million). Rubinstein had known Dalí since the early 1930s and she was part of the elite establishment that welcomed the artist when he arrived in New York in 1940 at the outbreak of war in France. In 1942, she commissioned Dalí to create a group of three major murals to decorate the dining room of her 30-room triplex on Park Avenue and he painted the present portrait a year later. The title of the work stems from Rubinstein’s designation as a princess following her second marriage to a Georgian prince in 1938. While Rubinstein was 73 years old at the time the portrait was executed, Dalí depicts the cosmetic magnate as a young woman with flawless features, representing the immortality of her fiery and energetic character and the legacy of her accomplishments and career.
Four works will be offered the following day, 4 May 2011, in Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale including Pavel Tchelitchew’s Head of Helena Rubinstein Encrusted with Sequins and Marie Laurencin’s Portrait de Helena Rubinstein, both dating from 1934 and estimated to bring $150/200,000 each. Rubinstein’s renowned taste for high fashion is captured in Graham Sutherland’s 1957 portrait, Helena Rubinstein in Red Brocade Balenciaga Gown (est. $100/150,000) and Raoul Dufy’s watercolor, Amphitrite, from 1939 will also be offered (est. $70/90,000).
Among the highlights to be sold in the October sale are additional works by Raoul Dufy including Helena Rubinstein in a Sailor Dress, est. $30/50,00 and Reclining Woman, est. $40/60,000, as well as Helena Rubinstein with a Mexican Silver Necklace, painted by Roberto Montenegro (est. $8/12,000).
Image: Salvador Dalí, Princess Arthchild Gourielli-Helena Rubinstein, 1943 (center right). Oil on canvas, 35 by 25¼ in., 89 by 64 cm. Painted in 1943. Est. $1/1.5 million. Photo: Sotheby’s.